The most common cause of jaundice in older babies and children is an infection of the liver, called hepatitis. Other causes are very rare.
The yellowish skin colour associated with jaundice is because of the presence of excess bilirubin in the body. Biliriubin is a product of red blood cell breakdown, which is a normal process. Usually, the liver gets rid of bilirubin, then a processed form of bilirubin goes from the liver to the digestive tract and bowel. Finally, the bilirubin comes out of the body in poo.
When there’s a change in one of these processes, it can create a bilirubin overload. Possible changes include too many red blood cells being broken down (for example, haemolytic anaemia), the liver being damaged (for example, hepatitis), or not enough bilirubin moving from the liver to the digestive tract (for example, biliary atresia).
Jaundice in newborn babies
is fairly common – around half of all newborn babies get it. This article looks at jaundice in older babies and children.
If your child has jaundice, you’ll notice his skin turning yellowish. The whites of his eyes will be yellow.
A child with jaundice might also have dark yellow wee and pale-coloured poo. His skin might be itchy too.
When to see your doctor
A child with jaundice should always be seen by a doctor, especially if the child is unwell or drowsy.
Your doctor might want to do blood tests on your child, to check bilirubin levels in your child’s blood and possibly wee. In some situations, your doctor might order other tests, such as an abdominal ultrasound.
The treatment of jaundice depends on how bad it is and what’s caused it. You should talk with your doctor about all aspects of your child’s treatment.