Jaundice and sunlight. By Marc Sorenson, EdD.
Jaundice is a disorder, usually temporary, that occurs in newborn babies and occasionally adults. It usually is innocuous, but sometimes may be dangerous. At least nine of 19 babies are born with the disease, and it is dangerous only occasionally. It is common in premature newborns, and those babies often manifest the disorder by a yellow skin. Furthermore, the children may manifest yellowing of the whites of the eyes. Most noteworthy, babies at birth have a higher number of red blood cells at birth. Thus, as the excess blood cells break down after birth, they produce a waste product called bilirubin. Due to the yellowish color of Bilirubin, skin and whites of the eyes may change. So, when bilirubin levels become excessive (not necessarily dangerous), jaundice usually manifests itself.
Can Jaundice become dangerous?
Though it is rare, the answer is yes, and hence, babies with jaundice need careful monitoring. Usually phototherapy with blue light is the treatment and cure of choice. Due to complex devices and medical costs, that method is expensive, especially for families with limited resources or insurance. An article in the Lancet medical journal, states that filtered sunlight can be just as effective, and far less expensive. Blue light treatments and sunlight treatments break down the chemical that causes the problem. Consequently, the baby quickly recovers, and all is well. Yet, if the jaundice does not improve, then a blood transfusion may be necessary.
It is especially relevant to know that jaundice can occur in adults. According to the Cleveland Clinic, these are some of the causes of jaundice in adults:
- Hemolytic anemias
- Viruses, including Hepatitis A, chronic Hepatitis B and C, and Epstein-Barr virus infection (infectious mononucleosis)
- Autoimmune disorders.
- Rare genetic metabolic defects.
- Medicines, including acetaminophen toxicity, penicillins, oral contraceptives, chlorpromazine (Thorazine) and estrogenic or anabolic steroids.
- Obstruction of bile ducts from gallstones, gallbladder inflammation, gallbladder cancer and pancreatic tumor.
Obviously, adult jaundice is much more dangerous than jaundice in babies, and require the care of medical professionals. Yet, for babies, filtered sunlight may be just what they need.