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7 myths about neonatal jaundice that you should know

World Hepatitis Day: Does neonatal jaundice occur because the mother had yellow-coloured foods during pregnancy?

Neonatal jaundice is common in newborns and many new mothers have a lot of misconceptions about it. While it lasts just for the initial days and resolves on its own, many people take help of natural remedies and other methods to treat the jaundice. But honestly, this is not needed. Here Dr Atish Laddad, Paediatrician and Founder Member, The Pediatric Network talks about the myths and facts related to neonatal jaundice.

Myth: Every newborn has neonatal jaundice

Not all, but about 60 percent of them can be affected by the condition. It is noticed during the third or fourth day after birth and resolves by the seventh day. The noticeable symptoms of neonatal jaundice are yellowing of skin, soles and white part of the eyes. Here are some expert tips to deal with neonatal jaundice.

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Myth: Jaundice in newborns is a serious condition

If it is neonatal jaundice, it is normal and not a serious condition. Newborns have a higher number of red blood cells when they are born. As a normal phenomenon, these red blood cells break down to replace the old ones and in the process generates a by-product called bilirubin. This bilirubin is expelled out of the body by the liver through stool and urine, but since a baby s liver is immature, it isn't efficient in removing the bilirubin effectively. So an excess build-up of bilirubin makes your baby look pale and yellow. After the first week or 10 days when the liver starts to function to its optimum, it expels bilirubin from the body and this suppresses the symptoms of neonatal jaundice. Here are five things about neonatal jaundice that you need to know.

Myth: Neonatal jaundice is harmless

This is in contradiction to the previous myth, but many people believe this and sleep over the matter waiting for the jaundice to resolve on its own. They are not totally wrong in believing this. Usually, neonatal jaundice is harmless, but if the levels go high, it could be dangerous. If the bilirubin levels are elevated beyond a particular level, it may damage the hearing capability and the brain permanently.

Myth: Only sunlight therapy is needed to treat jaundice

Well, treating jaundice with only sunlight therapy is suggested when the bilirubin levels are low or clinically jaundice is less. It is not a safe way of treating jaundice when bilirubin is high. Phototherapy is a better way to treat neonatal jaundice where the baby is kept under special lights. These special lights are manufactured to absorb the jaundice from baby s blood and get the bilirubin count down. The eyes and genitals being sensitive organs are covered during phototherapy, as a precaution, although, there are no side-effects found till date.

If your baby has low bilirubin count but it's still not in the desired range and sunlight therapy is advised, undress your baby completely (keeping the genitals covered) and keep near a window from where there is enough sunlight coming to your room. This can be done at your own home. Keep your baby for 15-20 minutes in the sun early in the morning. Don't let the sunlight come directly on the skin to avoid sunburns.

Myth: Breastfed babies don't suffer from neonatal jaundice

This is not true, but breastfeeding can help deal with the jaundice better. Frequent feeds can flush the bilirubin through stool and urine. As mother s milk improves digestion and liver function. Most doctors advise breastfeeding to tackle neonatal jaundice.

Jaundice settles on its own but rarely, if it persists beyond 14th day, it is known as breast milk jaundice which is treated by replacing breast milk with formula feeds for 48 hours. Once the jaundice settles, you can go back to breastfeeding. Here is all that you need to know about neonatal jaundice.

Myth: Neonatal jaundice is due to wrong eating habits during pregnancy

No, newborn jaundice has little to do with diet during pregnancy.

Myth: Your baby can suffer from jaundice later if she had it as a newborn

Not really. Unless the jaundice is due to some other reason, it can come later in life. But jaundice seen later in life has nothing to do with neonatal jaundice.

Image source: Shutterstock

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