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HealthInfo Canterbury

Jaundice in babies

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Jaundice is a condition that turns your skin and the whites of your eyes yellow. It's caused when you have high levels of bilirubin, a pigment that comes from your blood cells. Usually, your liver clears the bilirubin from your body.

There are many possible causes of jaundice.

It's very common for babies to have mild jaundice in the first two weeks of their lives. It's usually harmless, but sometimes it can be a sign of a serious problem such as liver disease.

Your doctor or midwife should check your baby's jaundice if:

If it's needed your midwife or doctor will arrange for your baby to have a blood test to check the level of bilirubin.

In most babies jaundice goes away by itself by the time they are two weeks old. Special light therapy (phototherapy ) is used in more severe jaundice.

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The poster is also available in Māori, Samoan, Tongan and Mandarin.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed October 2021.

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Page reference: 252619

Review key: HIUCB-33560