A Professor of Paediatrics, Department of Paediatrics, College of Health Sciences, University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Kwara State, Olugbenga Mokuolu, has asked expectant and nursing mothers to do away with camphor, dusting powder and mentholatum, warning that they cause jaundice and destroy the red blood cells in babies.
According to him, camphor is the most notorious substance causing jaundice in babies.
Prof. Mokuolu noted that babies are mild and mothers should stop using harsh substances around them to avoid destroying their red blood cells.
He particularly appealed to mothers to stop using camphor to preserve their babies’ clothes, warning that the harm goes beyond jaundice.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise, the paediatrician said, “We discourage the use of those items, particularly the most notorious of them, Naphthalene balls, commonly known as camphor.
“It is normally deployed in order to prevent cockroaches and other pests. Unfortunately, there is a rate at which it destroys the red blood cells more than usual.
“This is because there is a particular substance in the blood that would have protected babies from having their red blood cells destroyed when exposed to these substances.
“But in newborns, that substance is very low. It is not like the quantity you will have in adults. It is a particular type of enzyme that we call Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase.”
The professor further cautioned, “Mothers or expectant mothers should please avoid preserving the clothes of their babies with camphor.
“Any expectant mother should do away with camphor in the house. You have other means of controlling pests.
“Insecticides can be used to control pests, plus neat environment. We want to discourage the use of camphor in particular in preserving the clothes of babies or even as a general measure in controlling pests in the house when you are nursing a new born baby.”
Jaundice, according to online sources is the yellowish discoloration of the skin, sclera and mucous membranes resulting from deposition of bilirubin.
Experts say neonatal jaundice is a leading cause of neonatal admissions in the first week of life.
According to them, risk factors such as sepsis, prematurity, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase enzyme deficiencies, use of native herbs and contact with naphthalene balls contaminated clothes have been identified for neonatal jaundice.
On the use of dusting powder, the paediatrician said, “Dusting powder is not of the same degree of what camphor can cause. Camphor is pretty bad.
“Children are mild, we should avoid all these harsh substances around them. So, because they cause destruction of the red blood cells, the ability to clear the waste products is limited because their body organs are still immature.
“As a result of that, one of byproducts of the blood destruction is what results in the jaundice. Once the level of that substance accumulates, it can damage the brain.
“The contribution of exposure to these substances is significant. Dusting powder, in many cases, is not needed. We don’t need to expose the baby to harsh substances that can contribute to jaundice,” he warned.
Prof. Mokuolu also noted that mentholatum is not needed to keep the baby warm, stressing that looking after a baby is very simple.
“Why the use of mentholatum? Does the child have catarrh? Very mild oil should be used on the baby after bathing, he said.