Carotenemia and Yellow Skin in Babies

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If your baby has started eating solid foods and you suddenly notice their skin is looking a little yellow or maybe even orange, you may be worried that they are jaundiced. While it's important to confirm your baby's condition with your doctor, there is a possibility that instead of jaundice, your baby could have a classic case of carotenemia and that there is nothing to worry about.

What Is Carotenemia?

First described in 1919, carotenemia occurs when an infant's skin appears yellow, or even orange, after eating a lot of baby foods that are high in carotene. These foods include carrots, squash, sweet potato, corn, yams, pumpkin, egg yolks, spinach, and beans.

Other vegetables and fruits with a deep green or yellow color may also contain high levels of carotene. A breastfed baby can even develop carotenemia if their mother is eating a lot of foods that are high in carotene.

Carotenemia is a harmless condition and you don't have to restrict these foods from your baby's diet. Most likely, this condition will go away over time as your child gets older and eats a broader variety of foods.

Diagnosis

Although you should always mention your concerns to your pediatrician, it is likely that blood tests won't be necessary, especially if your child has no other symptoms and is otherwise growing and developing normally. Typically, in kids with carotenemia, the only symptom they have is discoloration of their skin.

Meanwhile, kids with jaundice usually display additional symptoms. For instance, they may have a fever as well as experience nausea, vomiting, stool color changes, and even liver enlargement.

If your child's eyes aren't yellow, that is a good sign that they probably aren't jaundiced; and if they are otherwise well, there likely isn't anything significant causing their skin to appear yellow.

Treatment

Because carotenemia is a benign condition, there's usually nothing that you need to do once your baby is diagnosed. If your pediatrician advises it, or if you are very concerned about it, you might consider changing their diet some, so that they aren't eating as many high-carotene foods.

But, carotenemia is usually temporary and does not cause any harm. As a result, your baby's skin color should return to normal in a few months as more foods are introduced to their diet.

Carotenemia also isn't associated with vitamin A poisoning, even though carotene is converted to vitamin A during the digestive process. That said, if your child is older and has carotenemia, your pediatrician may refer you to a dietitian, especially if their diet is extremely limited.

Prevention

Although carotenemia is a harmless condition, there are ways to prevent it from occurring. The easiest way to keep your baby's skin from becoming orange or yellow is to make sure they have a wide variety of foods in their diet that are as close to the original form as possible. You also can make sure they are eating a variety of different colored foods each week.

Sometimes this is easier said than done, though. If your toddler is going through a phase where the only thing they will eat is carrots or sweet potatoes, try not to worry too much. Continue offering new foods and flavors and eventually your child will find a new favorite.

If you're struggling for ideas on what to feed your baby, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that babies 6 months and older might enjoy infant cereal, mashed avocado or banana, and well-cooked and pureed meats, poultry, and beans.

By 9 months, you can introduce a variety of cooked, diced vegetables such as squash and green beans; and by 12 months, your baby might enjoy shredded meat, poultry, or fish as well as small pieces of cooked vegetables and easy-to-chew, soft fruits.

A Word From Verywell

The first time you notice that your baby's skin has a orange or yellow tint, you may be a little alarmed. You also may worry that your baby is jaundiced. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your concerns, but you probably have nothing to worry about.

There's a good chance your baby has carotenemia, especially if they have started eating solid foods and have an affinity for carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash. Carotenemia is not a serious condition and will correct on its own as your baby begins to broaden their diet.

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5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Carotenemia. Updated January 17, 2021.

  2. Pediatric Dermatology. Carotenemia.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Can eating too many carrots turn your skin orange?

  4. La Leche League. Carotenemia.

  5. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Dos and don'ts for baby's first foods. Updated March 2021.