Neonatal Jaundice: A Potential Cause of Permanent Brain Damage

Neonatal jaundice occurs when a baby (less than 28 days old) has excess bilirubin in his blood. Bilirubin is a yellow-coloured substance the body produces while replacing old red blood cells.

Studies show that about 60% of all full-term babies and 80% of preterm babies contract jaundice during the first two weeks after birth.

Neonatal jaundice can cause brain damage

Why do neonates have jaundice?

The liver breaks down bilirubin from the blood. However, a newborn’s immature liver might not be able to get rid of the excess bilirubin quickly enough, leading to jaundice.

Signs & symptoms of neonatal jaundice

  • Yellowness of the eyes and skin
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor feeding
  • High-pitched crying
  • Fever

Tests required in neonatal jaundice

The paediatrician will check the baby’s bilirubin levels with a skin/blood test.

Additional tests include complete blood count, blood type, and Rhesus incompatibility.

Complications of neonatal jaundice

  • Acute bilirubin encephalopathy – Excess bilirubin can cause brain damage if not treated in time.
  • Kernicterus – This is a sequela of acute bilirubin encephalopathy, which causes permanent damage to the baby’s brain.

Treatment of neonatal jaundice

Mild jaundice usually resolves on its own as the baby’s liver matures. Frequent feeding can also help in such cases. The treatment methods for severe cases of jaundice are:

  • Phototherapy – Here, the baby is placed under a light source, and special goggles are used to shield his eyes.
  • Exchange blood transfusion – This involves transfusing the baby with healthy blood. This is warranted in some cases.

Prevention of neonatal jaundice

Unfortunately, you cannot prevent your newborn from getting jaundiced. However, you can prevent the ailment from becoming severe through these measures:

  • Keep your baby hydrated through frequent feeding. You should feed 8-12 times in 24 hours in the first few days.
  • In most cases, breastfeeding ensures that the bilirubin gets expelled from the body.
  • If you are not breastfeeding, give your baby 30-60ml of formula milk every 2 hours for the first week.
  • Monitor your baby for the symptoms of jaundice and report at the hospital if you find any.

A word from HealthFacts to you

Neonatal jaundice is a potential cause of brain damage in a newborn. If noticed, you must rush to the nearest hospital around you for proper management of your child.

Till next time, stay informed and stay healthy!

Suggested Reading: Shaken Baby Syndrome: What you need to know


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