Jaundice is a common and usually harmless condition in newborn infants. The word jaundice comes from a French word meaning "yellow." It describes the yellowish appearance of the whites of the eyes and the skin of many newborn babies. Don't be alarmed if your baby has jaundice.
Physiologic or "normal" jaundice usually appears on the second or third day of life in healthy babies born after a full-term pregnancy. It often disappears within a week. Doctors estimate that as many as two-thirds of full-term babies get physiologic jaundice.
Premature babies are even more likely to get jaundice. It may appear later and last longer in these infants, becoming most noticeable between the fourth and seventh days of life.
In most instances, the jaundice is so mild it can be ignored, and it will disappear without treatment. However, if the condition is more severe or if the jaundice is present at birth or appears during the first 24 hours of life, treatment probably will be necessary.
Call your pediatrician if your baby has jaundice which deepens (skin and whites of the eyes become more yellow).
In most babies, jaundice occurs because the liver and other organs are not yet fully mature. This is particularly true in very small or premature babies.
One function of the liver is to rid the blood of a yellowish substance called bilirubin (pronounced "Billy Ruben"). During life, new red blood cells are being created and old ones are being destroyed. As the old cells are broken down, an ingredient in the cells - hemoglobin - is changed into bilirubin and removed by the liver. Until a baby's liver begins to function fully, bilirubin tends to build up in the baby's bloodstream, causing the skin and the whites of the eyes to become yellow. This condition is known as physiologic jaundice.
Potentially more serious kinds of jaundice may occur when the baby's blood type is different from the mother's blood type. One of these conditions is called ABO incompatibility. If a baby has this condition, jaundice usually appears within the first two days after birth.
A more severe form of jaundice can occur when the mother has Rh-negative blood and the baby has Rh-positive blood. In babies who have this condition, jaundice is seen the first day of life.
Physiologic "normal" jaundice goes away without treatment. When a baby's jaundice does require treatment, phototherapy is usually used. Phototherapy simply means treatment using light. Light - either sunlight or artificial light - speeds up the removal of bilirubin from the body.
In phototherapy, the baby's skin is exposed to special, high-intensity lights, often called "bililights." All the baby's clothes are removed and the eyes are covered to protect them from the light. While undergoing phototherapy, the baby is kept warm in an isolette or uses a "biliblanket," which allows the baby to stay with mom. The doctor determines the best phototherapy method.
Phototherapy continues until the amount of bilirubin in the baby's blood falls to and remains at a safe level. The level is checked regularly by testing a small blood sample taken from the baby's heel.
Some babies need to stay in the hospital for a day or two after the phototherapy is complete to ensure that the bilirubin level doesn't rise again.
If your baby has jaundice, you may want more information about its cause and treatment. Your baby's doctor can answer your questions about your own infant's condition.
- Jaundice in newborns is very common.
- In the majority of instances, the condition is normal, harmless, and temporary.
- When treatment is needed, the methods are safe and effective.
A little oozing of blood can be expected at first. To avoid
irritation of the penis by the diaper, apply Vaseline® on a piece of gauze
to the circumcised area with each diaper change. Continue until the
circumcision looks like it is healed. If your baby has a plastic bell, the ring
will fall off. No Vaseline® or gauze needs to be used with a plastic bell. Clean the circumcised penis with warm water and squeeze out the washcloth so the water runs over the circumcision. This will clean the area without irritating
the incision line.
Wash and rinse your baby's penis every day. Do not push back the foreskin. Pushing back the skin may cause pain and bleeding. The natural separation of the foreskin from the glans may take many years. For more information about care of your baby's uncircumcised penis, talk with your baby's doctor.
Car safety for your baby
By law, regardless of age or weight, children are required to be
in a federally approved child safety restraint, belt-positioning booster seat, or seat belt when being transported in a motor vehicle unless they are:
- 8 years of age or older
- weigh at least 60 pounds
All children must ride in the back seat of automobiles.
In California, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for children
ages 4-16. More than 47 percent of fatally injured children, ages 4-7, were completely unrestrained.
Air bags can cause serious injury or death to infants or children
if these steps are not followed:
- Infants less than 1-year-old must ride in the back seat of a vehicle in a rear-facing car seat.
- Infants in rear-facing child safety seats must never ride in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-front air bag.
- For babies with health concerns, an adult should ride with the baby in the back seat.
- Refer to your vehicle's owner's manual for more information about air bags and child safety seat use.