Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.Learn More
Jaundice is a condition that makes the skin and eyes look yellow. Normally, the body breaks older red blood cells into a yellow fluid called bilirubin. The liver helps take the bilirubin out of the blood. It becomes part of a fluid called bile. This bile helps people break down their food.
In some newborns, their liver can’t do this process very well yet. Too much bilirubin builds up, and their skin and eyes look yellow (jaundice). Jaundice usually goes away in 2-3 weeks after eating as their liver develops and they start feeding.
Other things can cause jaundice such as:
The primary treatment for jaundice is putting your baby under a special blue light that breaks down the bilirubin. Your baby might lie under an overhead light or under a blanket that shines this light on their skin (fiberoptic or bili blanket). Your care team will show you how to use the light or blanket. The special blue light helps break down the bilirubin.
If the jaundice is not severe, your care team may ask you to put your baby by a window so that they can get indirect (filtered) sunlight. The indirect sunlight helps break down bilirubin. Talk to your care team before putting your baby in the sunlight and follow their instructions.
Be sure to check your baby’s body temperature during any kind of light therapy. Check to see your child regularly to see if they are too hot or too cold. Follow your care team’s instructions. They will tell you how to do treatments safely and about other treatments your baby needs.
Your doctor may order overhead light therapy. Your child may get light therapy in the hospital, or you may have to do it at home. If you give light therapy at home, your doctor will tell you how to do it. This may include steps such as:
Follow your doctor’s instructions.
Eye protection during light therapy is important. Follow these tips to protect your child’s eyes:
Your child might need a blanket that shines a light on their skin. You might hear this called a fiberoptic blanket or “bili blanket". The blanket is inside a cover or vest. You can wrap the blanket around your child or lay them on it. Follow these steps:
Reviewed: August 2022