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Beware Yellow: that baby could have serious liver disease

Beware Yellow: that baby could have serious liver disease

Beware yellow - it could be a sign your young baby has serious liver disease and needs prompt treatment, medical experts warn.

Jaundice - which causes yellow skin and eyes - is common in newborn babies but in babies more than two weeks old it could indicate potential fatal liver disease, says Dr Helen Evans, consultant in paediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at Starship Children’s Hospital in Auckland.

Dr Evans says New Zealand has one of the highest rates of paediatric liver disease in the OECD, but it can be easily detected with a simple blood test.

“Any baby with jaundice, diarrhoea and itching should be seen by a specialist paediatrician. If you have any concerns about your baby’s health, then you should contact your midwife or GP. A special blood test called a split bilirubin, usually done as a heel prick, will tell doctors whether or not to worry about liver disease.

“We urge parents and health professionals to look out for the early warning signs. The earlier after birth that a diagnosis is made, the greater chance the child has of a normal healthy future.” 

The main signs are jaundice (on day one of birth, or after two weeks), pale stools and dark urine.

Dr Evans says every month a New Zealand baby is born with severe liver disease, and the incidence is higher among Maori and Polynesian families. She is working with Otago University on a nationwide study.

To help raise the yellow alert, Kids Foundation/IDFNZ families, medical staff and supporters will meet in Auckland Domain at 1pm on Friday, February 28 to mark Rare Disease Day.

They will release yellow balloons to raise awareness and support families coping with paediatric liver disease - and they’ll be helped by the friendly St John mascot yellow-eyed penguin, Primo.

“We thought it fitting that this endangered New Zealand native bird could help spread the message about our precious New Zealand jaundiced babies,” says IDFNZ chief executive Janet Simons.

For details: or ph 0508 300600


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