Jaundice in Children

Jaundice in children

Most parents recognize the fear and trepidation that comes with an illness to their child. It can be one of the most frightening things a person can go through. Not knowing about the condition also adds to this fear. This can change, as learning about an illness can not only alleviate your fears but help provide the best care possible for their child. One of the conditions that can affect numerous children worldwide is jaundice. It is an illness that has an effect on the bloodstream, liver, digestive and excretion systems of the body. This condition is easy to identify as it will turn your child’s skin and sclerae (the white part of the eyes) yellow. Jaundice can manifest in adults and kids alike.


What is Jaundice?

Amongst the numerous conditions that can affect your child, one of the easier illnesses to identify is jaundice. Although jaundice alone is not a dangerous illness, the yellowing of the skin and the white part of the eyes that it causes is a sign of a rise in bilirubin in the bloodstream. Bilirubin, commonly known as bile, is a fluid that is produced in the liver and is yellow in colour. This fluid is essential to the functions of the body, particularly the digestive tract. This fluid usually helps regulate the digestive system and is excreted through the stool. When it fails to come out through the stool and begins to work its way into your system, it can spike the amount of bilirubin in the blood which leads to a condition known as hyperbilirubinemia. This is the primary cause of the change of colour in the eyes and skin.


Types of Jaundice

1. Obstructive Jaundice

This type of jaundice is caused when the natural excretion of bile from your body is blocked causing extra bile to be present in your liver.

2. Pre-Hepatic Jaundice

Also called haemolytic jaundice, this is caused when red blood cells break down much faster than they should, red blood cells have bile particles in them and when they break down too fast it can cause excess bile in your body.

3. Hepatocellular Jaundice

Commonly called intra-hepatic jaundice, this is caused due to some form of trauma or injury that damages the liver causing a large amount of bile to be found in your body.

Causes of Jaundice in Kids

Jaundice can be caused due to numerous different reasons, some of these are:

  • If your baby is born premature, jaundice is common. This is because the liver is still developing and that means the bilirubin isn’t flushed out of their system, this should correct itself in two weeks.
  • Your child may naturally have a weak liver leading to jaundice.
  • The baby may have an inflamed liver which can cause jaundice.
  • They may contract an infection of the liver which, if serious enough, can cause jaundice.
  • Their bile ducts may be blocked or may prevent the excretion of bile due to inflammation of the bile ducts. Obstruction of the bile ducts could lead to the failure to flush bile out of the system and lead to jaundice.
  • A condition called cholestasis could be preventing your body from ridding itself of bile, this can cause jaundice as a side-effect.
  • An illness known as Gilbert’s syndrome is known to interfere with the normal functions of your liver by disturbing or preventing healthy enzymes from developing, this could block bile excretion causing jaundice.
  • Haemolytic anaemia is known to be a cause of jaundice because it speeds up the breakdown of red blood cells, this leads to excess bile being pushed out of these cells early and in other parts of your body, this can cause jaundice.
  • Malaria can infect the body, it is a well-known aggravator and root cause of bile instability leading to jaundice.
  • Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are all well-known causes of Jaundice.
  • Sickle cell anaemia is a condition that is known to cause jaundice as a side effect.
  • A genetic condition known as Crigler-Najjar syndrome is a known cause of jaundice.
  • The most common cause of jaundice is consuming unhealthy, unhygienic and unclean water.

Unhealthy, unhygienic food

Symptoms of Jaundice

There are many ways to identify jaundice, some of the symptoms of this condition are:

  • Your skin turns yellow.
  • The white part of the eyes turns yellow
  • Frequent high fevers
  • Extremely itchy skin
  • Pale stool or yellow colour stool
  • Dark urine
  • Fatigue accompanied by other illnesses.
  • A rapid loss of weight
  • A constant bitter taste in your child’s mouth
  • Chills accompanied by some of the other symptoms
  • Extreme abdominal pain could indicate a bile imbalance
  • Joint pains with other signs


Diagnosing jaundice can be done in different ways. Usually, the tests for adults don’t vary that much from the ones done for kids. A good way to notice if your child has jaundice is to understand that a change in skin colour, specifically to yellow is a clear-cut manner in which a doctor will diagnose jaundice. Here are some other things your doctor may ask you to do to confirm the diagnosis.

  • Get a K.U.B ultrasound, K.U.B stands for kidney, urethra and bladder. If the ultrasound shows abnormalities, doctors could help make the diagnosis.
  • Doctors may ask you to do an LFT. This is a liver function test, usually, a blood test that can help evaluate the levels of bilirubin in the blood.
  • The lab may take samples for a complete blood count as well as a haemoglobin count. These routine tests help doctors diagnose jaundice.
  • Routine urine sample to test the urobilinogen in your urine.
  • A urine culture further diagnoses any abnormalities in the urine that may help diagnose jaundice.
  • Bilirubin tests to detect the presence of bilirubin in your blood.
  • At times, doctors can diagnose a child with physical examinations where they check for swellings in the feet, legs and ankles, these all indicate cirrhosis of the liver and could indicate jaundice.

Treatment of Jaundice in Children

Whether it be treating jaundice for 4-year-old kids or adults, it is very important to get sufficient rest, increase your intake of fluids. In most cases, this should cure the condition and in the cases it doesn’t, here are a few other treatment techniques:

  • If jaundice is causing hepatitis, anti-viral medication could be prescribed to help combat the condition.
  • Similarly, steroids are prescribed to help combat hepatitis caused by jaundice.
  • In case of blockage of the bile ducts, you or your child may need surgery.
  • In cases of sickle cell anaemia, a complete blood cell replacement procedure may be required.
  • If jaundice is caused by Gilbert’s syndrome, the treatment, if any, is minimal and varies from doctor to doctor.
  • Jaundice caused by a bad liver cannot be fixed. Doctors, in this case, may advise a change of diet and lifestyle to help slow down the deterioration of the liver.

Talk to your physician to come up with a customized treatment plan to help you combat this condition.

Home Remedies

Apart from the medicated treatments, some parents may choose to opt for natural home remedies. Here are a few remedies that may help combat jaundice.

1. Tomatoes

Rich in enzymes that repair damaged livers called Lycopene, tomatoes are thought to have properties that can help rid your child of jaundice.

2. Turmeric

This ingredient reinforces enzymes that flush out carcinogens that hurt the liver and can help beat jaundice in kids.

3. Sugarcane Juice

It is estimated that apart from helping restore glucose, sugarcane has particular properties that can fasten recovery from jaundice.

4. Buttermilk

Not only does buttermilk re-energize and refresh your child, it hydrates them and helps improve digestion. This can help combat jaundice.

5. Barley Water

Considered the quickest and most natural cure for jaundice, it is assumed that barley water has properties that reinforce the digestive tract and liver.

6. Lemon and Beetroot Juice

Lemon juice works to reinforce and protect the liver, beetroot has properties to purify blood and help digestion. The combination of the two are known to help cure jaundice quickly and efficiently.

To learn more about natural remedies for jaundice talk to your primary health care physician.

Home remedies: Buttermilk

Diet for Children Suffering From Jaundice

During jaundice, it is important to regulate your child’s diet religiously. This is because this condition can cause weakness and fatigue while also impairing nutritional value naturally. Here are a few things to keep in mind while creating a meal plan for your kids:

  • Ensure the diet is extremely rich in iron. This will help recovery and reinstate the lost minerals for your child. If there is a good amount of Iron in your child’s blood, they will recover faster as iron works actively to combat jaundice.
  • Hydration is the key. This illness will dehydrate your child rapidly and frequently, ensure they stay well hydrated throughout the day.

Hydration is the key

  • Keep the meals short and frequent, this will keep their energy levels up without overloading their system. This also will help digestion.
  • Limit protein, this could worsen jaundice. Instead, give your kids carb-rich food with no oil or fat and increase their fibre intake.
  • If your child has extremely low energy levels give them a glucose supplement.

Talk to a dietician and doctor before implementing a diet plan.


Here are a few tips to help prevent jaundice:

  • Make sure your kids stay hygienic
  • Ensure your kids drink mineral or bottled water or boil the water before drinking it
  • Eat fresh, eat organic and eat based on a nutritional chart.
  • Ensure your kids get their vaccines

We recommend you talk to your doctor for more tips on how to prevent jaundice.

Jaundice can be a tough disease to face. It can exhaust your kids and you. Remember though, with the right treatment and care they can make a complete recovery. It is highly recommended that you follow through with a treatment plan for the entire prescribed duration, and ensure that good hygiene plays a huge part in your child’s routine. Diet and exercise with good hygiene can help avoid most diseases like jaundice.