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Yellow Eyes & Blue Lights

written by Dr Daniella Awuku Anim July 5, 2021
Yellow Eyes & Blue Lights

As a new parent, you are just getting the hang of having a newborn, few hours of sleep at night, trying to get used to breastfeeding, sore nipples and regular diaper changes as well as bonding time which is acceptably a lot to take in. So, when during a routine baby check-up, the doctor tells you your baby is jaundiced it suddenly feels like a whole lot.

 “Doctor, is our baby, okay? what does jaundice mean? should we be worried?” These are frequently asked questions from every parent of a newborn. They want to know that their baby is doing well and they can send their bundle of joy home.

JAUNDICE is a yellowish tinge seen in the eyes and skin of a baby. It is termed neonatal jaundice if it occurs within the first 28 days of life.60% of term newborns and up to 80% of preterm newborns develop neonatal jaundice at some point during their first few days of life.

Most cases are physiological (which means it results from the normal functions of the human body) and is often seen from the second to fourth days of life. It results from the imbalance between red blood cell breakdown and removal of its by product-bilirubin, by the liver. The newborn liver is still very immature and is unable to remove the bilirubin at the rate that the red blood cells are broken down. The excess bilirubin is what remains and stains the skin and eyes yellow. More often than not, once detected early, physiological jaundice does not reach the levels that may require medical intervention and a good feeding regimen helps to ‘flush’ out the bilirubin from the child’s system. If detected late, the levels may have exceeded the normal for the child’s age and weight and may require PHOTOTHERAPY i.e., using a blue light to get rid of the excess bilirubin by converting it into a water-soluble form for the body to easily excrete it. Of great concern is the pathological type of jaundice caused by underlying genetic and enzymatic defects (e.g., G6PD), blood group and rhesus incompatibility, infections and metabolic conditions. These may lead to seriously high levels which can travel up to the brain and cause irreversible damage to the cells also known as KERNICTERUS or worse, death.

WHICH BABIES ARE AT RISK?

  • Babies who are rhesus positive whereas their mothers are rhesus negative
    (i.e., those with a negative attached to their blood group -A-, B- etc.)
  • Babies who have a blood group A or B whereas their mothers have an O blood group.
  • Babies with a sibling who had neonatal jaundice.
  • Mothers who are having difficulties establishing breastfeeding (breastfeeding jaundice)

HOW CAN IT BE PREVENTED/HOW CAN YOU AVOID ADVERSE OUTCOMES?

  • Early initiation of breastfeeding practices.
  • Prompt initiation of phototherapy when needed to prevent the need for exchange transfusion or neurological damage
  • Sunbathing (sunshine therapy) for mild cases that fall below the range of phototherapy is helpful – remember to go with the early morning sun (6am-9am) or late evening sun(4pm-6pm) before sunset

THINGS TO NOTE

  • Some causes of jaundice are complex and a specialist may be involved in these cases.
  • If your newborn is discharged before their 3rd day you should book an appointment to have your baby reassessed for jaundice before the 7th day of life.
  • Return to your healthcare provider if your baby is excessively irritable/ difficult to wake up, feeds poorly or has a shrill cry and any abnormal movements.

If in doubt consult your doctor. Other forms of advice though from a well-meaning place may be detrimental to your baby’s health. Remember early detection and prompt intervention saves lives!!!

Dr (Mrs) Daniella Awuku Anim is a medical doctor with a passion for anything paediatrics and child health related. This passion led to the inception of Mama’s Niche, a place meant to provide useful information and education from pregnancy,through birth and delivery to caring for the children and keeping them healthy and strong throughout their childhood .

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1 comment

Aaron July 5, 2021 - 9:26 pm

Very useful information, Helpful insight. Thank you very much for the assistance

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