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Phototherapy for Children

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.


Bilirubin absorbs light. High bilirubin levels often decrease when a baby is put under special blue spectrum lights. This is called phototherapy. Your child may get this treatment in the day and night. It may take several hours for it to start working. During light treatment, your baby’s eye will be protected. Your baby’s healthcare provider will check your baby’s temperature. He or she will also test your baby’s bilirubin levels. This will tell if phototherapy is working.

Fiber optic blanket

A fiber optic blanket is another form of phototherapy. The blanket is usually put under your baby. It may be used alone or with regular phototherapy.

Exchange transfusion

This treatment removes your baby’s blood that has a high bilirubin level. It replaces it with fresh blood that has a normal bilirubin level. This raises your baby’s red blood cell count. It also lowers his or her bilirubin level. During the procedure, your baby will switch between giving and getting small amounts of blood. This will be done through a vein or artery in the baby's umbilical cord. It is only done in an intensive care nursery when bilirubin levels are extremely high. Your baby may need to have this procedure again if his or her bilirubin levels stay high.

Feeding with breastmilk

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that you should keep breastfeeding a baby with jaundice. If your baby has not been getting enough milk at the breast, you may need to supplement with pumped breastmilk or formula.

Treating any underlying cause of the condition

This may include treating an infection. In very rare conditions a liver transplant may be needed.