Is Coconut oil a safe, effective treatment for diaper rash?

BABY cosmetic products are gaining a lot of popularity these days.  They are marketed as best in quality which makes the consumers purchase them in prices much higher than the normal range of products.

Manufacturers claim that their skin care products have soothing aromas and keep the baby’s skin cool and fresh as it maintains the skin’s moisture equilibrium.

In spite of so many advantages advertised by manufacturers, some babies’ skin react to commercial baby cosmetic products. Some babies react negatively to many additives added to these products. They cause serious health concerns in babies such as diaper or nappy rash.

Diaper rashes are a common problem for babies. It is not a disease, but an irritation of the skin which when severe, becomes painful and distressing for the baby, and a source of great anxiety for mothers. The baby may become fussy and cry when cleaning the skin. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help clear the baby’s diaper rash.

Coconut oil is a natural treatment that is commonly used to treat skin conditions and maintain good skin health. It may also help treat or prevent diaper rash.

Applying coconut oil to the skin may help relieve inflamed diaper rash and any accompanying redness, irritation, or itching. It also helps moisturise the skin and heal wounds.

Virgin coconut oil is processed natural oil obtained from fresh, mature coconut kernel. It displays several biological activities like anticancer, antimicrobial, analgesic, antipyretic, and anti-inflammatory properties under laboratory conditions.

Peculiar Abiona, who sells coconut oil at the Ojoo Primary Health Care centre in Akinyele Local governemnt, Ibadan, says she has been selling coconut oil to nursing mothers for over a year at the primary healthcare centre

“Coconut oil is good for both babies and adults. It makes the skin of babies to be smooth. It clears any form of rashes on their baby’s skin and also protects the skin from the sun,” Abiona opined.

She added that aside from nursing mothers who use coconut oil, individuals with stomach ulcer and cough who drink the oil also get relieve from these conditions.

Mrs Adams Ezigbeme, a mother of four at the health facility declared, “My babies usually have alefo, but this baby did not have alefo since we started using pure coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil is called adiagbon in Yoruba. The dandruff on his head too is gone; it prevents rashes, eczema and so on, unlike many baby skin products.”

So, does virgin coconut oil really prevent diaper rash in babies? Although there is an  anecdotal evidence to support the use of coconut oil, especially when coupled with its other potential skin benefits, there is none that specifically examines the effect of coconut oil on diaper rash.

However, evidence suggests that it may prevent the yeast (Candida albicans) that cause most  diaper rash. In a 2009 edition of the Journal of Medicinal Foods, researchers at the University College Hospital (UCH), Coconut oil showed it can be used in the treatment of fungal infections in view of emerging drug-resistant Candida species.

They found that coconut oil was active against species of Candida at 100% concentration compared to fluconazole, the conventional antibiotics used in the hospital to treat candida infection.

In addition, researchers said coconut oil may prove useful in the treatment of skin rashes, whose symptoms including skin irritation (inflammation), pain or fever.

Another article published in January 2018 in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that coconut oil is effective at reducing the presence of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other pathogens, suggesting that the oil can be formulated into cream to prevent both fungal and bacterial organisms.

Moreover, clinical studies have revealed that virgin coconut oil improves the symptoms of many skins problems such as enzema, so justifying the use of the oil in many skin care formulations.

In a 2014 study, patients applied virgin coconut oil to the skin for a period of eight weeks and had better results than mineral oil based products. It improves skin hydration in children with eczema.

According to the researcher in the international Journal of Dermatology, coconut oil cannot cure eczema but it can soothe the skin, reduce the itching and irritation and lower risk of more infections.

Meanwhile, many other  plants  and   plant-based  products had  been  reported  to  be  effective  on diaper dermatitis and diaper rash. For instance, a combination of honey, olive oil, and beeswax can reduce the complications of nappy rash.

Researchers reported in the 2013 edition of International Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health that the combination of honey, olive oil, and beeswax could be used as an alternative or complementary treatment for the treatment of nappy rash.