Health News of 2014-05-09

Camphor can cause jaundice in children – Doctor

Health experts have cautioned that using Naphthalene balls otherwise known as camphor could expose children to the yellowish coloration disease jaundice.

Naphthalene balls, also known as moth balls or camphor balls, are spherical pieces of a white solid material containing at least 98 percent naphthalene. They were widely used to repel moths and cockroaches and as deodorants for urinals and bathrooms.

In several homes in Ghana, camphor is used as an air refreshener and usually dropped in corners of rooms, wardrobes and washrooms. Others crush the substance into powder and sprinkle it around to ward off creeping insects.

The substance has also been found to be locally recommended by many to be inhaled as a cure for respiratory infections.

But a Pediatrician at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), in Kumasi, Dr. Lawrence Osei Tutu, has told Ultimate Radio, camphor has some potency to trigger the breaking down of red blood cells in the case of some enzyme deficiencies in children.

He explained, “It is a known fact that some children of the black population in Sub Saharan Africa have some deficiencies in their red blood cells being broken down too quickly and abnormally with the end result being the yellowish discoloration of the skin, mucous membranes, and the whites of the eyes”.

He further explained that the phenomenon was rife in countries including Ghana because several children especially boys lacked enzymes called the G6PD which is suppose to keep the red blood cells from breaking down easily.

“This enzyme is called the G6PD, and a lack of it is called the G6PD deficiency. So the disease state is there and certain things trigger the breaking down of the red blood cells. One of it is the Naphthalene balls or camphor."

He advised that parents run blood tests on their children to ensure the children do not have the G6PD deficiency before exposing them to camphor.

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