Massaging low birth weight babies with sunflower seed oil is a low cost intervention that can protect them from infections, concludes a study published online by The Lancet.
The skin of a preterm baby is immature and lacks vernix, a protective cutaneous film with antimicrobial properties. Infections and complications resulting from premature birth are responsible for more than half of all neonatal deaths. Preterm very low birth weight babies (weighing less than 1500 g) are particularly vulnerable; they have mortality rates of 50 percent upward in both hospital and community settings in developing countries.
Gary Darmstadt, of
Darmstadt comments, Evidence is emerging that the skin is much more important as a barrier to infection than previously recognized, particularly in preterm infants whose skin is underdeveloped. The good news is that treatment is available to strengthen the function of the skin as a barrier in these vulnerable newborns. More than 90 percent of babies in Bangladesh, Nepal, and much of South Asia are massaged with mustard oil as part of routine practice. The challenge now is to discourage use of mustard oil, which can delay recovery of the skin barrier and have a toxic effect on the skin, and persuade people to use alternative proven, available and low-cost products such as sunflower seed oil.
Source: The Lancet