Newborn jaundice is a common condition among babies and phototherapy is commonly used to treat it. One would think this treatment would be all happening in a hospital NICU. But no. Many parents are looking for phototherapy machine on rent to use at home, based on recommendations from their pediatricians/ neonatologists.
Definitely home healthcare is booming in India. But most of it was known to be elderly care at home. Hospital bed, Oxygen concentrator, CPAP, Bi-PAP, infusion or syringe pumps are commonly taken on rent for care of seniors at home.
Why is phototherapy increasingly becoming part of home care? We can suggest couple of reasons.
Better Neonatal Care in India
Preterm birth rate in India is at 13%, higher than global average of 1 in 10 births. According to World Health Organization (WHO), every year 15 million babies are born prematurely in the world, out of which 3.5 million (23%) are in India alone. This means a lot of medical effort is needed in our country to save these infants. NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) facilities in our country have improved tremendously and proliferated even in semi-urban / rural areas in the last decade or so. Doctors and parents are taking timely and better care of infants than ever before. Infant mortality rate (IMR) in India has declined in the last 11 years from 57 per 1,000 live births in 2006 to 33 in 2017.
Jaundice is seen to occur in nearly all preterm infants and more than 60% of normal newborns. Phototherapy is the most common treatment recommended for treating newborn jaundice. However, hospitals and doctors would like to use their resources to take care of truly pre-mature neonates needing acute care, potentially more serious than a mild case of jaundice or what is called hyperbilirubinemia. Hence several neonates with just a mild case of jaundice are discharged from hospitals and recommended phototherapy for a day or two at home. This not only reduces the cost burden of medical treatment on the parents, but also puts both the Mother and child at ease to recover in the comforts of home.
This is the primary reason why Phototherapy machines are being taken on rent at home increasingly.
Use of LED lights in most homes
Pediatricians of previous generation, a decade of two back, would simply recommend just placing the baby under the tube light for a day or two. That was “phototherapy”. This was because both incandescent lamps and Flourescent lights emit substantial heat as well as ultraviolet radiation. So the baby was not only treated for jaundice, but also kept warm if in case it was winter. Sunlight is said to be the biggest source of ultraviolet light. Exposure to a few hours of Ultraviolet light everyday helps us produce Vitamin D, but overexposure to Ultraviolet rays is said to be harmful, even carcinogenic. Even though the emissions from CFL are far less than harmful levels, there has been lot of propaganda against the use of CFL and incandescent bulbs and in favour of LED lights in the last decade or so. Most homes today use LED lights, because they are much more energy efficient, last way longer, do not generate heat and are good for health. However LED lights emit ‘zero’ ultraviolet light. Net result is that since most adults spend almost all their days indoors, Vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent today (That’s another story) and more importantly for this discussion, normal LED lights cannot be used for phototherapy. Ergo, phototherapy units with special blue LED lights are in.
Want to know more about – What is phototherapy treatment? Why is there high incidence of newborn jaundice in the first place? How safe is phototherapy? How long is phototherapy required and other related information? – Click to read our blog on Phototherapy – 5 things to know about phototherapy for treating newborn jaundice