Camphor, methylated powder cause jaundice in newborns

A neonatologist, Prof. Angela Okolo, has warned parents of newborn babies against the use of camphor, menthol, methylated dusting powder and other such substances, saying this could result in jaundice.

Okolo, who works at the Federal Medical Centre, Asaba, gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Ibadan.

She said that jaundice remains one of the leading killers of newborns in the country.

“Neonatal jaundice is a leading cause of  hospitalisation in the first week of life in Nigeria.

“It is also a major contributor to neonatal mortality and long-term morbidity, if not detected early and properly managed.

“The cause of jaundice is excess bilirubin; a waste product produced when red blood cells are broken down.

“Many factors like breast milk, sickle cell anaemia, low birth weight and prematurity have implicated the development of jaundice.

However, we are seeing cases of jaundice caused by other things like unhygienic practices of the mothers and health workers, infections, the use of things like camphor, Robb, mentholatum and dusting powder on the babies.

“These things predispose babies to jaundice by breaking down the red blood cells of the baby.

“The more the red blood cells are broken down, the higher the bilirubin comes up, and this may result in brain damage if not detected early,” she said.

According to her, the lack of practical skills among health workers contributes to morbidity and mortality among newborns.

“A lot of mothers lack access to quality healthcare, a majority have their babies in community health centres, where many health workers lack newborn care skills.

“A lot of these health workers ignore simple preventive measures like hand-washing.

“We need the support of the media to help us raise awareness on jaundice, prevention and early signs.

“We need to bring to the attention of the public that jaundice is a major infant killer,” she said.

Okolo said the health workers and mothers could monitor the babies for earliest sign of jaundice by gently pressing the baby’s chest, or a slight pinch of the nose.

“Often times, we want to look at the eyeballs of the baby to detect jaundice; by the time we are noticing it in the eyes that  jaundice has gone far.

“Whereas simple ways of detecting jaundice involves a slight pinch of the nose, a gentle press of the forehead.

“If there is a yellow tinge to the skin, as the pressure is released, take the baby to the hospital for proper management and treatment.

“Don’t try to treat jaundice at home.

“Administration of pawpaw juice, early morning light and glucose water are of no value in the treatment and management of jaundice.

“Late presentation to the hospital could result in brain damage,” she said.

Okolo said that other signs of jaundice include pale stool, dark urine, vomiting and high-pitched cry.

Source: Punch News

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