Neonatal Jaundice


For all jaundiced babies, consider whether infection may be the cause and investigate (blood culture, lumbar puncture) and treat appropriately.

Remember that jaundice on day 1 is always pathological - think about haemolysis due to ABO or Rhesus incompatibility or G6PD deficiency. Also consider congenital infections, especially syphilis.


Any baby who appears visibly jaundiced should have a bilirubin level checked using the transcutaneous bilirubinometer.
If a bilirubinometer is not available, refer to the body area chart for jaundiced babies to judge upon the severity of jaundice.

If the bilirubin level is greater than the value shown in the chart below, the baby should be started on phototherapy.
Please take into account how many days old the baby is and whether they are term/ preterm/ low birth weight (<2.5kg)/ sick.
If the bilirubin is not high enough to warrant phototherapy, but is close to the threshold (within 3mg/dl), please check it again the following day.

Phototherapy treatment thresholds for jaundiced babies

Healthy term baby Preterm, LBW, sick
Day of life mg/dl mg/dl
Day 1 Treat any visible jaundice with phototherapy
Day 2 15 13
Day 3 18 16
Day 4 and after 20 17

Once under phototherapy...

Pocket book of hospital care for children, WHO, p58