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Phototherapy for Jaundice in Newborns

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What do I need to know about phototherapy?

Phototherapy is light treatment for newborn jaundice. Jaundice is yellowing of your newborn's eyes and skin. It is caused by too much bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellow substance found in red blood cells. It is released when the body breaks down old red blood cells. Bilirubin usually leaves the body through bowel movements. Jaundice happens because your newborn's body breaks down cells correctly, but it cannot remove the bilirubin. The light used for phototherapy helps your newborn's body get rid of extra bilirubin. Phototherapy may be done at home. Your newborn may need phototherapy in the hospital if the jaundice is severe.

Bili Lights

How do I prepare my newborn for phototherapy?

Your newborn's healthcare provider will tell you how to prepare your newborn. Healthcare providers may need to take a sample of your newborn's blood to check his or her bilirubin levels. He or she will need to have blood drawn more than once.

What will happen during phototherapy done in the hospital?

How do I give my newborn phototherapy at home?

The lights will be delivered to your home. You will be taught how to use them. A healthcare provider will do blood tests on your newborn at home to check his or her bilirubin levels. When the level is low enough, the phototherapy lights can be turned off. Another blood test will be done in 24 hours to check the bilirubin level. If the level stays low enough, your newborn's treatment will be finished. The lights will be removed from your home. Your newborn's pediatrician will tell you how many hours a day to do phototherapy. The following will help keep your newborn safe and warm during treatment:

What are the risks of phototherapy?

Your newborn could become too cold or too warm during the treatment. He or she may be irritable or tired, or spit up more. He or she may become dehydrated. He or she may get a skin burn or rash from the lights. Your newborn could have eye damage if his or her eyes are not protected by an eye mask.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your baby. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.