New-born jaundice ranked second among ailments treated at the Child Health Department of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.
New-born jaundice is a condition in which the skin, sclera (white of the eyes) and mucous membranes turn yellow due to the increase of bilirubin, a yellow pigment of red blood cells, in a baby’s blood within the first 28 days of life.
A paediatrician, Dr AbenaTakyi, in an interview with the Ghanaian Times on Monday revealed that the condition makes up 30 to 50 per cent of admitted cases at the neonatal ward.
Dr Takyi said that aside the yellow colourisation of the skin or sclera, there were other symptoms to look out for to ascertain if a baby was jaundiced.
“Besides jaundice, a baby can have other things that would tell you that the baby is not doing well, so for instance poor feeding, weak cry, not very active, high body temperature and in some instances the stools have a pale colour.”
“These are the symptoms that can suggest the jaundice is becoming severe or maybe there is an infection or a scalp swelling which can predispose the baby to become jaundiced,” she bemoaned.
According to her, the ailment can and cannot be prevented depending on the cause of jaundice, explaining that “whilst doing everything possible to prevent the child from getting the infection, commonly we would treat any infection in the mother especially if the mother has any urinary tract infection, we would want to treat it as soon as possible and effectively so that the infections are not transmitted to the child.”
The paediatrician admonished parents to desist from using camphor around their new-borns as it predisposes them to jaundice.
“Avoid using camphor when you have new-born babies around, especially in the baby’s clothes,” she lamented.
She also cautioned mothers against the use of unprescribed medicines or herbs during pregnancy, and glucose drinks during the lactating period and the practice of good antenatal clinic attendance “because you pick up certain risk factors in the mothers when they have attended the clinic then we can prepare for the incoming baby.”
Dr Takyi added that parents must be on the look-out to avoid missing the symptoms as it would be difficult to detect jaundice within the first few minutes or hours of birth, so parents needed to be aware that their babies could be jaundiced within the first week of life.
She discouraged the traditional practice where babies were kept indoors for the first few days of life up to a week as it makes it difficult for the mother to detect the jaundice symptoms on time.
“You need good light to perceive jaundice because it’s not very visible so parents need to have a good look at the baby at least twice a day, maybe once in the morning and once later in the day, several hours apart so you can detect it,” she explained.
Dr Takyi encouraged mothers to visit the hospital after detection for further examination, testing and treatment.
BY JESSEL LARTEY THERSON-COFIE