Topical Coconut Oil in Very Preterm Infants: An Open-Label Randomised Controlled Trial

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Abstract

Background: The immature fragile skin of preterm infants represents an inadequate protective barrier. The emollient and anti-infective properties of coconut oil make it a potentially beneficial topical agent for this population. Objectives: Our aim was to evaluate feasibility, safety, and the effects of topical coconut oil on skin condition in very preterm infants. Methods: An open-label randomised controlled trial in preterm infants <30 weeks' gestation was conducted. Enrolled infants were randomised to receive either routine care or topical coconut oil (5 mL/kg) twice daily for 21 days, starting within 24 h of birth. The neonatal skin condition was the primary outcome, and was assessed using the Neonatal Skin Condition Score (NSCS) on days 1, 7, 14, and 21. The number of coconut oil applications was recorded to assess clinical feasibility and all enrolled infants were monitored for adverse effects of topical coconut application, such as skin irritation. Results: A total of 72 infants born <30 weeks' gestation were enrolled (36 infants per arm), with comparable demographic characteristics. Topical application of coconut oil was feasible and without adverse effects. The NSCS was maintained in the coconut oil group throughout the intervention period, but deteriorated from a median (IQR) of 3 (3-4) on day 1 to 4 (4-4) on day 21 in the control group (p = 0.01). There were no differences in common neonatal outcomes, including sepsis, necrotising enterocolitis, retinopathy of prematurity, chronic lung disease, and mortality. Conclusions: Topical coconut oil maintained a better skin condition in very preterm infants without adverse effects. This simple, safe, and affordable intervention warrants further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-151
Number of pages6
JournalNeonatology
Volume113
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018

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