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Newborn Baby Jaundice
Baby Diseases » Jaundice.
What is jaundice?
Jaundice is a condition in which the baby looks orangey-yellow in colour. It is a common condition occurring in the first few days of life. Usually it is not present at birth but starts around the second or third day and builds up to a maximum towards the end of the first week. There is a slight excess of red blood cells in newborn babies and when this surplus is destroyed, the red pigment converts to a yellow one. Breastfeeding can prolong jaundice.
Does jaundice cause brain damage?
Severe jaundice during the first couple of weeks of in infant's life can damage the brain. The brain damage may not be apparent until several months later. There may be deafness, involuntary movements or intellectual disability. A jaundiced newborn baby must be regarded seriously, so take your child to a clinic that can measure the level of bilirubin (the pigment in the blood responsible for jaundice).
How do you treat jaundice?
Exposing your baby to sunlight by placing the baby near a window can treat mild cases of jaundice at home. There is no need to place your baby in the direct rays of the sun, especially in the tropics because you may burn your baby. A few hours of Indirect sunlight is required each day. In moderate cases of jaundice, shining a light of a certain wavelength onto your baby's skin may carry out treatment. This is known as phototherapy and is effective in reducing the severity of jaundice. However, if the level of jaundice becomes too severe, there may be a need to replace the baby's blood by a procedure known as an exchange transfusion. Baby's blood is exchanged for the blood of a donor who is not jaundiced.
What is G6PD deficiency?
This is an inherited disorder affecting male children predominantly, due to a deficiency of a protein in the blood called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase. Without this protein, the red blood cell becomes very fragile and can burst, releasing the red pigment (haemoglobin) inside, which is converted by the spleen into bilirubin, which causes the yellow skin discoloration. Newborn babies with G6PD deficiency can develop very severe jaundice which can cause cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, deafness and even death. Hence the need to keep the child under close observation for a longer period and to provide phototherapy or exchange transfusion where appropriate. Certain drugs can also disrupt the red blood cells in G6PD individuals, causing jaundice. Avoid these drugs.