Jaundice is the yellowish color that often appears on the skin of newborns. This condition develops when bilirubin builds up in the baby’s blood. While pregnant, the mother’s liver gets rid of the infant’s bilirubin; however, after birth, the child’s liver eliminates the bilirubin on its own. For some cases, the liver may not be fully developed to effectively remove the bilirubin. If excessive bilirubin builds up in the baby’s body, parts of the skin plus the whites of the eyes may turn yellow. This yellow discoloration is referred to as jaundice.
If severe jaundice isn’t treated, it can result in a relentless condition called kernicterus. This is a form of brain damage that occurs due to intense levels of bilirubin in the newborn’s blood. It’s accompanied by the loss of hearing and athetoid cerebral palsy. Again, kernicterus causes vision or teeth problems as well as intellectual disabilities. If jaundice is detected early, then the development of kernicterus can be prevented.
Signs and Symptoms
At the very start, jaundice appears on the face and then proceeds to the chest, arms, belly, and legs. This happens due to the rising levels of bilirubin. The natural whites of the eyes can become yellow. Remember, it can be difficult spotting jaundice on kids with dark-colored skins. The baby’s doctor can check the amount of bilirubin in the child’s blood. Consult a doctor immediately if your baby is:
- extremely fussy
- experiencing difficulty with sleep or finds it hard to wake up
- having a very yellow skin
- not breastfeeding
- not having enough wet diapers
Seek medical emergency services if your child:
- constantly cries in an extremely high-pitched level
- has a limp or stiff body
- is severely arched the way a bow is. That’s when both the head and heels are bent backwards while the body is bent forward.
- has weird eye movements
A professional doctor might check the newborn’s bilirubin level by means of a light meter that’s placed on the head. This gives a transcutaneous bilirubin level (TCB). If it’s high, a supplementary blood test will have to be ordered.
The most effective way to accurately determine bilirubin levels is through the use of a liberal amount of blood sample obtained from the newborn’s heel. This sample can be used to check the baby's total serum bilirubin level (TSB). If it’s found that the level is very high, then proper treatments will follow. A series of blood tests might be performed to ascertain that the TSB reduces with the recommended medication.
No child should develop detrimental brain damage due to untreated jaundice. When receiving treatment for elevated bilirubin levels, the child may have to be undressed and subjected to special lights. You shouldn’t worry about the lights because they’re harmless to the baby. This procedure can be conducted at home or in the hospital. The child’s milk intake might have to be increased as well. Under certain circumstances, the doctor may suggest a blood exchange transfusion. This is common when the baby’s bilirubin levels are extremely high.
The common risk factors for infant jaundice include:
- Preterm babies
- Babies with dark skin colors
- East Asian and Mediterranean descent
- Blood type
- Bruises at birth
Don’t wait for the worst thing to happen. Jaundice can be treated. Act swiftly and save your baby from the agony of having permanent brain damage. Simply consult a medical specialist for an improved condition.