Newborn Jaundice (cont.)
Newborn Jaundice Symptoms
- As a baby's bilirubin levels rise, jaundice moves from the head to involve the arms, trunk, and finally the legs. If the bilirubin levels are very high, a baby will appear jaundiced below the knees and over the palms of his or her hands. One easy way to check for jaundice is to press a finger against your baby's skin, temporarily pushing the blood out of it. Normal skin will turn white when you do this, but jaundiced skin will stay yellow.
- Older children and adults will appear jaundiced when the amount of bilirubin in their blood is above 2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Newborn babies will begin to appear jaundiced when they have more than 5 mg/dL of bilirubin in their blood. It is important to recognize and treat neonatal jaundice because high levels of bilirubin can cause permanent damage to a baby's brain. This brain damage is called kernicterus. Today, because of increased awareness and effective treatment of neonatal jaundice, kernicterus is extremely rare.
- Jaundice itself does not produce any clinical symptoms, but the underlying cause may produce the following symptoms:
- Ill appearance
- Poor feeding
When to Seek Medical Care for Newborn Jaundice
Call your doctor if your newborn baby becomes jaundiced.
If your doctor is aware of the jaundice and you are observing your child at home, call your doctor if the jaundice spreads to the arms or legs or if it lasts beyond 1 week.
Call your doctor if you don't feel comfortable watching your child at home or if you have any other questions or concerns.
When to go to the hospital
If your child appears ill to you (if he or she is refusing to eat, seems excessively sleepy, or has floppy arms and legs) or has a temperature of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Go to the hospital if your child seems to be having difficulty breathing.
If your child stops breathing or begins turning blue, administer rescue breaths if you are trained in CPR. Send someone to call 911 immediately.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2016
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