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Light treatment (phototherapy)

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Light treatment (or phototherapy) is a good way of getting rid of jaundice in babies. The lights help your baby process bilirubin (the substance in their blood that makes their skin yellow). [20] [21] Light treatment works so well that just a few babies need any other treatment.neonatal-jaundice_default.jpg

To read more about bilirubin and how jaundice happens, see What is jaundice in newborn babies?

To have light treatment, your baby is put in a cot with lights about 20 centimetres (8 inches) from their body. [20] Your baby's eyes are covered with a mask to stop the light hurting them. [21] Most babies need about one or two days of light treatment. This treatment is done in hospital. [8]

Two good-quality studies (called randomised controlled trials) found that light treatment helped to get rid of jaundice in babies. [22] [23] In one of these studies: [22]

  • Only 4 in 100 babies who had light treatment also needed to have an exchange transfusion

  • But 25 in 100 babies who didn't have light treatment needed to have an exchange transfusion.

Light treatment has a few side effects. Your baby may:

  • Become too warm

  • Become dehydrated

  • Get a skin rash or a tan.

Some doctors and parents are also concerned that babies who're given light treatment have to be separated from their mothers. [20] So doctors have been looking at a new way of giving light treatment to babies. This is called fibre-optic light treatment.

Glossary

randomised controlled trials

Randomised controlled trials are medical studies designed to test whether a treatment works. Patients are split into groups. One group is given the treatment being tested (for example, an antidepressant drug) while another group (called the comparison or control group) is given an alternative treatment. This could be a different type of drug or a dummy treatment (a placebo). Researchers then compare the effects of the different treatments.

For more terms related to Jaundice in newborn babies

Citations

For references related to Jaundice in newborn babies click here.
Last Updated: August 30, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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