Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Mild infant jaundice often disappears on its own within two or three weeks. For moderate or severe jaundice, your baby may need to stay longer in the newborn nursery or be readmitted to the hospital.

Treatments to lower the level of bilirubin in your baby's blood may include:

  • Light therapy (phototherapy). Your baby may be placed under special lighting that emits light in the blue-green spectrum. The light changes the shape and structure of bilirubin molecules in such a way that they can be excreted in the urine and stool. The light isn't an ultraviolet light, and a protective plastic shield filters out any ultraviolet light that may be emitted.

    During treatment, your baby will wear only a diaper and protective eye patches. The light therapy may be supplemented with the use of a light-emitting pad or mattress.

  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg). Jaundice may be related to blood type differences between mother and baby. This condition results in the baby carrying antibodies from the mother that contribute to the breakdown of blood cells in the baby. Intravenous transfusion of an immunoglobulin — a blood protein that can reduce levels of antibodies — may decrease jaundice and lessen the need for an exchange blood transfusion.
  • Exchange transfusion. Rarely, when severe jaundice doesn't respond to other treatments, a baby may need an exchange transfusion of blood. This involves repeatedly withdrawing small amounts of blood, diluting the bilirubin and maternal antibodies, and then transferring blood back into the baby — a procedure that's performed in a newborn intensive care unit.
Apr. 03, 2014