Objective: Topical emollient application reduces trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) in preterm neonates. Coconut oil used traditionally for infant massage in India has not been evaluated for the same.
Patients and methods: Very low birth weight (VLBW) neonates were randomized at 12 h of age to Oil (n = 37) or Control (n = 37) groups. Oil group neonates received twice-daily coconut oil application without massage, and Control group received standard care. TEWL was measured every 12 h using an evaporimeter till Day 7 when skin swabs were obtained for bacterial growth and skin condition was assessed using a validated score.
Results: Birth weight (g; mean ± SD: 1213 + 214 vs. 1164 + 208, p = 0.31), gestation [week; median (interquartile range): 32 (31-33) vs. 32 (29-33), p = 0.10] and other baseline variables were comparable. TEWL was significantly reduced (g/m(2)/h, mean difference: -6.80, 95% confidence interval: -3.48, -10.15; p < 0.01) with better skin condition and lower bacterial growth in the Oil group (20% vs. 60%, p < 0.01).
Conclusion: Coconut oil application reduced TEWL without increasing skin colonization in VLBW neonates.
Clinical trials registration: NCT01758068.
Keywords: coconut oil; neonate; prematurity; skin conditioning score; trans-epidermal water loss; very low birth weight.
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