Jaundice is the yellow colour seen in the skin of many newborns and happens when a chemical called bilirubin builds up in baby's blood. It can occur in babies of any race.
Bilirubin in the blood is normally removed by the liver. Before birth, the mother's liver does this for the baby.
Jaundice is common in newborns because their immature livers require a few days to develop before it can eliminate the bilirubin efficiently.
Most infants have mild jaundice that is harmless. However, in some infants, the bilirubin level can be very high and this may cause brain damage.
Hence, newborns should be checked carefully for jaundice and treatment should be administered to prevent a high level of bilirubin.
If your baby appears jaundiced in the first few days of life, the doctor may conduct a blood test to determine your baby's bilirubin level. A bilirubin level is always needed if jaundice develops before a baby is 24 hours old.
Further tests might be needed, depending on the age of the baby, the bilirubin level as well as other factors that predispose the baby to jaundice.
It is important for your baby to be seen by a nurse or doctor when your baby is between 3 to 5 days old, because this is usually the time when a baby's bilirubin level is the highest.
The timing of this visit may vary depending on the age of your baby when discharged from the hospital, advice given upon discharge and other factors.
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