Is Infant Jaundice Life Threatening?

Infant jaundice (i.e. jaundice in newborn babies) is also known as physiological jaundice. It is a condition characterised by yellowing of a newborn baby’s skin and sometimes the white part of their eyes.

It is usually caused by excess bilirubin in the baby’s bloodstream. Bilirubin is a yellow-colored pigment that is a product of the breaking down of old red blood cells in the body. It is normally excreted in bile to give faeces their normal yellow-brown coloration.

During pregnancy, bilirubin is removed from the baby’s body through the placenta. After birth, the baby’s body must get rid of the bilirubin on its own. Jaundice normally occur in newborn babies because their livers are not yet able to get rid of excess bilirubin very well, thus resulting in excess bilirubin (hyperbilirubinemia) in their bloodstream hence causing jaundice.

This type of jaundice usually appears between the second and fourth day after birth, and then it goes away in about a week. It is a rarely a cause for alarm as it usually goes away after some days.

However, there are other causes of jaundice that should be noted. Some of these causes are:

  • Sepsis : an infection of the blood
  • Liver Malfunction
  • Rhesus Incompatibility : when there’s difference in mother and baby blood types
  • Viral or Bacterial Infections
  • Abnormality of the baby’s red blood cells

Jaundice caused by these factors can occur between less than a day and several days after birth. If you notice yellowing of your baby’s skin or if you leave the hospital before your baby’s third day, it is important to take your baby back for a checkup.

If your baby has jaundice, your paedatrician will examine your baby and ask you questions about your health and your baby’s health. More tests may be needed if the doctor suspects that a health problem is causing too much bilirubin in the blood. These tests will determine the kind of treatment that your baby will receive.

It is important to know that early detection is very crucial.

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