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Clinical features of neonatal jaundice

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

In addition to the obvious icteric discolouration of the neonate, other clinical features may include:

  • failure to thrive
  • poor feeding
  • other features of the underlying aetiology

NICE state that (1)

  • identify babies as being more likely to develop significant hyperbilirubinaemia if they have any of the following factors:

    • gestational age under 38 weeks
    • a previous sibling with neonatal jaundice requiring phototherapy
    • mother's intention to breastfeed exclusively
    • visible jaundice in the first 24 hours of life

  • in all babies:
    • check whether there are factors associated with an increased likelihood of developing significant hyperbilirubinaemia soon after birth
    • examine the baby for jaundice at every opportunity especially in the first 72 hours

  • when looking for jaundice (visual inspection):
    • examine the sclerae and gums, and press lightly on the skin to check for signs of jaundice in 'blanched' skin
    • do not rely on visual inspection alone to estimate the bilirubin level in a baby with suspected jaundice


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