In jaundice the skin turns yellow because of increased amounts of a yellow pigment called bilirubin in the body. The whites of the eyes (sclera) turn yellow at a higher level of bilirubin. Bilirubin is produced by the normal breakdown of red blood cells. Bilirubin builds up in the body if the liver doesn't send it into the intestines.
Jaundice can be caused by several different problems.
In rare cases where the bilirubin reaches dangerous levels, an exchange transfusion may be used. This technique replaces the baby's blood with fresh blood. Physiological jaundice does not rise to levels requiring this type of treatment.
Newborns often leave the hospital within 24 to 48 hours of their birth. It is important for your baby to be seen by a healthcare provider when the baby is 3 to 5 days old. This is when the baby's bilirubin level is the highest. Some babies are at greater risk for high levels of bilirubin. They may need to be seen sooner. Ask your healthcare provider about when to come in for a follow-up visit if your baby:
Parents should also watch for jaundice in their newborn. The amount of yellowness is best judged by viewing your baby unclothed in natural light by a window. Jaundice starts on the face and moves downward. Try to determine where it stops.
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