BiliTool provides an interactive tool on its website to calculate the relative risk to and appropriate treatment for an infant based on the bilirubin level, age in hours and gestational age. Bilirubin is a byproduct of decaying red blood cells, says BabyCenter. In most infants, the liver naturally processes bilirubin.
Babies with healthy livers eliminate bilirubin in bowel movements. KidsHealth states that when the liver is not yet mature, bilirubin builds up in the bloodstream and causes jaundice. Newborns are often born with livers that are not yet fully developed, and newborns born prematurely are particularly at risk for jaundice. Severe jaundice can cause brain damage, according to KidsHealth. However, severe jaundice is rare, and most jaundice cases do not require treatment, says MedlinePlus.
Doctors recommend that newborns be evaluated for jaundice with a bilirubin level in the first few days of life. A bilirubin level below five in a day-old full-term infant is deemed low risk, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, but even a day-old baby with a bilirubin level as high as 11.7 requires only continued monitoring according to BiliTool.
Treatment for jaundice varies by severity. For most jaundice cases, the treatment is eight to 12 feedings per day to produce bowel movements, explains MedlinePlus. For more severe cases, phototherapy, or placing the infant under specialized lights or in a lighted blanket, is recommended. In the most severe cases, an infant must have his blood exchanged with fresh blood to eliminate bilirubin.