clinical features of neonatal jaundice

Last reviewed 09/2022

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