G6PD deficiency and jaundice
Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency, one of the most common metabolic disorders afflicting newborns, requires special dietary care for both babies and their nursing mothers. Babies born with G6PD deficiency means their body lacks a specific enzyme, G6PD. Without G6PD enzyme, red blood cells have a shorter life spans when exposed to certain chemicals, usually found in food and drugs. Hence when red blood cells are destroyed (anaemic hemolysis) it will cause anaemia, resulting in dizziness, pale-skin, persistent tiredness, headache, tea-colored urine, abdominal or back pain.
Newborns are by nature born with excess amount of red blood cells. Their bodies will break down excess red blood cells and this process creates bilirubin, a waste product which their liver needs to dispose of. Often, their immature liver are taxed when excess bilirubin are required to be disposed from the body. This causes jaundice which is very normal in newborns. However, newborns with G6PD deficiency, with more than normal excess of bilirubin needed to be extracted from the body, taxes the already overloaded liver even more. As a result, they often experience higher and prolonged levels of jaundice than normal newborns.
How do you care for babies with G6PD deficiency?
Parents should take proper precautions when caring for a child with G6PD deficiency. The main thing is keep your child from being exposed to triggers of G6PD deficiency symptoms.
Newborns with G6PD deficiency may suffer from prolonged and more severe levels of jaundice. Often, if the levels are too high, mothers are advised to stop breast feeding their infants for a short period of time by paediatricians as breast milk might interfere with the liver’s ability to conjugate bilirubin.
After being discharged from hospitals, breast-feeding mothers should avoid consuming certain types of food and medications which might induce anaemic hemolysis in G6PD deficient babies. The list of food and drugs to avoid is fairly similar to the ones a G6PD deficient person should avoid. Analgesics, anti-malarials, sulphonamide drugs should be strictly avoided.
Know which types of drugs and medication to avoid: http://www.g6pd.org/favism/english/index.mv?pgid=avoid
On the other hands, there are types of drugs that are safe to take at prescribed doses: http://www.g6pd.org/favism/english/index.mv?pgid=safe
As you can see from the lists above, the number of drugs that should be avoided is fairly comprehensive. To be on the safe side, make sure every medication for your child is acquired via doctor’s prescription.
Both breast-feeding mother and child must avoid fava beans (broad beans). Fava bean remains the most common food to avoid for G6PD deficient individuals.
Keep your child away from mothballs. Do not let them touch or get close enough to inhale the scent of mothballs. If your newborn inherits some hand-me-down clothes, make sure to wash the clothes clean before your baby wears them. You’d never know the clothes may have been stored in close vicinity to mothballs.
Choose milk formulaes which have no traces of soya or soybeans.
Observe your child’s diet by carefully introducing legumes such as peas, beans, lentil or various types of beans. Some people with G6PD deficiency avoid legumes, but not all. Most people shows no symptoms.
Soy products, blueberries and red wine are also trigger symptoms of G6PD deficiency but again, does not necessary affect all people.
Peppermint oil should not be used around your child’s face. In fact, breastfeeding mothers themselves should refrain from using peppermint oil too.