Jaundice in newborn babies

Jaundice in newborn babies

Jaundice is the name given to yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. Jaundice in newborn babies is very common, is usually harmless and usually clears up on its own after 10–14 days.

Newborn babies produce large quantities of the pigment bilirubin. This is the substance that gives the yellow colour to the skin and whites of the eyes. Bilirubin is a product of the breakdown of red blood cells. It is normally processed by the liver and passed out of the body through the bowels in stools (faeces). The skin and eyes turn yellow in jaundice because there is an increased amount of bilirubin in the body.

Most babies who develop jaundice do not need treatment or extra monitoring. However, a few babies will develop very high levels of bilirubin, which can be harmful if not treated. In rare cases, it can cause brain damage.

The aim of this guideline is to help prevent or detect very high levels of bilirubin. It is also to help identify those babies who have jaundice because of liver disease.

If you think your baby is jaundiced the doctor or midwife will be able to help you judge whether or not the jaundice needs treating.

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