Use of heat from lanterns, hot water for umbilical cord care can kill — Experts

Saturday, December 30, 2017

According to researchers, a substantial proportion of neonatal deaths occur from infections; neonatal tetanus inclusive of the umbilical cord. Cord care practices may directly contribute to infections in the newborn which accounts for the 26 per cent of global under five deaths, experts say. Evidence from studies also show that the prevalence of cord infection in newborns ranges from 3 to 5.5 per cent in most developing countries.
Cord care starts shortly after birth and practices vary in different communities and culture but good cord care practice is an important community based intervention to save and protect the lives of newborns. Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for care of the new born cord is to apply nothing after cutting except in certain circumstances. However, the use of sterile cotton wool soaked in either Methylated spirit or water at body temperature or gentian violet on the cord is still being practised nationwide.
Correct care of the umbilical cord of a newborn goes a long way in determining the immediate health and survival of the newborn. Sadly however, a lot of wrong practices based on tradition that may predispose a newborn to infection are still engaged in, experts lament.
Paediatricians have, over time, discouraged the use of concoctions, heat from lanterns, breast milk, cow urine and other unorthodox methods in the care of infant cord. However, some mothers still engage in those unsanitary practices, especially in rural areas.
Dr. Tahir Lawal, a pediatrician at the National Hospital (NHA) Abuja in an interaction with a media outlet emphasised the need for mothers to stick to the recommended and acceptable practices for cord care and desist from other unorthodox methods.
He explained that the umbilical cord is the connecting tissue between the baby, placenta and the mother. “Two arteries and the veins are present in the umbilical cord. Now after delivery, the cord should be tied with a cord clamp and then cut. The expected thing is that it should dry up and subsequently fall off. But I know that in our environment, there are a lot of funny things happening. I have seen mothers use engine oil, lantern, hot water, tooth paste and all sorts of things on the umbilical cord.
“None of those applications are sterile and because the cord is a vessel containing arteries and a vein, it simply means that those contaminated applications can cause infections that will go from the cord into the bloodstream.
“If the mother uses water also, she will leave the area wet and the wet surface would encourage the growth of bacteria and ultimately, an infection. All that is needed is to clean the area with methylated spirit,’’ Lawal said.