Neonatal jaundice or Neonatal hyperbilirubinemia is a yellowing of the skin and other tissues of a newborn infant.  In newborns jaundice is detected by blanching the skin with digital pressure so that it reveals underlying skin and subcutaneous tissue. Jaundice newborns have an apparent icteric sclera, and yellowing of the face, extending down onto the chest.

This condition is common in newborns affecting over half (50 -60%) of all babies in the first week of life.

Phototherapy: The use of phototherapy was first discovered, accidentally, at Rochford Hospital in England.  The charge nurse of the premature baby unit, firmly believed that the infants under her care benefited from fresh air and sunlight in the courtyard.   Further investigation lead to the determination that blue light, wavelength of 420-448 nm, oxidized the bilirubin to biliverdin, a soluble product that does not contribute to kernicterus. Some pediatricians began using phototherapy in the United Kingdom following  publishing the above facts in the Lancet in 1958.

The light can be applied with overhead lamps, which means that the baby’s eyes need to be covered, or with a device called a Biliblanket, which sits under the baby’s clothing close to its skin.

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