The use of menthol products and or camphor on newborns for reasons ranging from cold weather, catarrh and it is sometimes added to newborn’s oil which is applied on the head claiming it cures OKA ORI which is normal phenomenon called ANTERIOR FONTANELLE is a very common practice in this part of the world, as good as menthol and camphor containing products can be it could be dangerous if used on some newborns as it could increase the rate at which red blood cell is being broken down which could lead to JAUNDICE. Jaundice which is a disease common in newborns and has contributed to a large extent to the increased rate of neonatal death and morbidity (illness) as it can damage the brain and lead to CEREBRAL PALSY, which occurs when the excessive bilirubin in the blood which is the cause of jaundice passes through the brain blood barrier and gets into the grey matter which is a major component of the central nervous system, its function include muscle control and sensory perception such as seeing, hearing , emotions, memory, speech, decision making and self-control.
Menthol is an organic compound made synthetically or obtained from herbal volatile oils of corn mint, pepper mint, eucalyptus or any other mints. It is a waxy crystalline substance, clear or white in colour, which is sold at room temperature and melts slightly higher. Menthol has local anesthetics and counterirritant qualities and is widely used to relieve minor throat irritation, cold, flu, and other respiratory ailments.
The breakdown of red blood cell is a normal activity in the body which lead to the production of bilirubin but when the rate at which red blood cell is being broken down increases, the body system is overwhelmed hence there will be excess bilirubin in the blood which leads to jaundice. G-6PD known as Glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenate s an enzyme that helps red blood cell work properly when there is a deficiency in the G-6PD enzyme, the red blood cell breaks down when exposed to certain foods, drugs or stress among which is menthol products and camphor, consistent exposure to substances that trigger this occurrence could be life-threatening and could bring about symptoms and signs such a dark urine, fatigue, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath and yellowing of the skin (jaundice).
G-6PD deficiency is one of the many causes of jaundice and it occurs when a person is missing or has low-level of the -6PD enzyme, which is caused by mutation in the G-6PD gene. A research carried out in Lagos by Olowe et al observed jaundice caused by G-6PD deficiency is more common among outpatient babies suggests that its exogenous, ‘mentholated’ powder which is commonly used in many clinics and at home to dress umbilical cords was suspected to be the offending agent. A controlled study of the effects of these powders was carried out in 60 consecutive G6PD deficient babies. In 30 of them the umbilical cords were dressed daily with the powder while the other untreated served as control group. The treated babies developed statistically more significant jaundice than the controls. Inability of the neonates to conjugate the menthol in this powder is possibly responsible for the jaundice developed by these G-6PD deficient babies. It was concluded that the use of menthol and or camphor containing commercial products on neonates be discontinued, especially in communities where the incidence of G-6PD deficiency is high as the use of such products may be contributing to the severity of Neonatal Jaundice.
G-6PD deficiency is a hereditary condition which is why it is better to stay clear of menthol and or camphor products on newborn to avoid experimenting with them as one might not know a child has the deficiency until a triggering substance is used and the child begin to exhibit signs and symptoms. We can do without using menthol products for newborns as most of its use are usually unnecessary for newborns. For cold weather, wear them weather appropriate clothes. For catarrh, most are usually due to viruses which will eventually resolve on their own. Camphor use to make newborns wardrobe or clothes smell nice, ensure you keep their clothes clean and dried properly before keeping and it will smell nice also use good detergents or bar soap with nice smell. Take heed to avoid being a victim of what could have been prevented.