Jaundice refers to a yellow discolouration of the
skin and white part of the eyes. It is very common in newborn babies. It is
caused by an excess of the chemical bilirubin in the blood.
Jaundice in newborns is also referred to as neonatal
jaundice or hyperbilirubinemia.
Haemoglobin is a molecule found in red blood cells.
It is responsible for carrying oxygen to all cells in the body. Bilirubin is
a normal chemical by-product of the breakdown of haemoglobin.
The body does not actually need bilirubin. Usually
it travels through the blood to the liver where it is converted so that it can
be removed in the urine.
If a child or adult has too much bilirubin, they
are newborns particularly susceptible to jaundice?
While a baby is in the womb, he/she gets rid of
its bilirubin through the mother's blood and liver systems. Once born, the baby
then has to take over this function.
In newborn babies, the liver and intestinal systems
may not have fully developed yet. Therefore they cannot excrete the bilirubin
as fast as the body is making it. Jaundice results.
Many newborns develop jaundice within a few days
of their birth. Premature infants are more likely to develop it because there
is a bigger chance that their liver and intestinal systems aren't properly developed.
This form of jaundice is harmless and usually goes
away after a few days.
Jaundice does not cause fever. If your baby has
jaundice and a fever, seek medical attention as the fever is being caused by
jaundice always require medical treatment?
No. In fact most cases of jaundice in newborns
do not require any treatment. The jaundice goes away itself, usually within
a few days. Jaundiced babies usually require extra fluids. It is important that
your baby is checked out if they have jaundice, to ensure there is not some
underlying problem or condition causing it.
Usually jaundice produces no long-terms effects
in the baby.
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