Lighting up baby’s life (July 28, 2011) – By Joan Chew

In the past, parents had no choice but to leave their babies in hospital for phototherapy.

This involves the use of blue or green light to convert bilirubin in the skin to by-products that can be excreted in the urine or stools.

But in recent years, the phototherapy equipment used in hospitals has been made available for rent at home upon referral by a doctor, offering parents the option of home phototherapy.

More parents are opting for home phototherapy since one company, The Baby Specialist, started renting out phototherapy equipment in 2004, said its business strategist, Ms Sheryl Tay.

The number of home rentals has grown from fewer than 300 in 2004 to more than 500 last year.

Dr Ong Eng Keow, a paediatrician at Mount Alvernia Medical Centre, observed that a third of his patients now undergo home phototherapy, up from less than 10per cent a few years ago.

Dr Pratibha Agarwal, head and senior consultant of the Special Care Nursery at the department of neonatology at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), said that two in three healthy newborn babies develop jaundice in the first week of life, though most cases are very mild and require only monitoring.

About 15 to 20 per cent of the jaundiced babies require phototherapy, she added.

KKH and National University Hospital (NUH) care for the bulk of newborn babies with jaundice. Figures from the Health Ministry showed that from last June to this May, KKH put 1,133 babies through phototherapy and NUH, 436 babies.

During home phototherapy, the phototherapy lamp is placed about 25cm above the baby, who is dressed in only diapers and a mask to protect the eyes.

Every four to six hours, parents have to record the baby’s temperature and the appearance of the stools and urine, and monitor how well the baby is drinking.

If the temperature drops below 36.1degC or rises above 37.5deg C, parents have to adjust the temperature in the room.

After three days, parents have to bring the baby back to the doctor for a blood test to check on the bilirubin level to see if phototherapy can be stopped.

Dr Edmund Koh, a paediatrician at a clinic in Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, said that home phototherapy is ‘a good alternative’ to treatment in hospital because the mother will be around the baby and breastfeeding will not be disrupted. Mother and child can also bond better at home, he added.

But he stressed that this option should be offered only to parents who are able to cope.

To read more, visit: http://www.straitstimes.com/MindYourBody/InTheKnow/Story/STIStory_695437.html

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One Response to “Lighting up baby’s life (July 28, 2011) – By Joan Chew”

  1. Do you have a Facebook page or Twitter? Would love to follow you there, I’m on my iPhone and love reading your stuff!

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