Cheap Petroleum Jelly May Curb Costly Problem in Infants

Research finds daily application helps babies at risk of eczema
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2016 3:05 PM CST
Cheap Petroleum Jelly May Curb Costly Problem in Infants
File photo.   (AP Photo/B.K.Bangash)

Baby rashes are common, but atopic dermatitis—the most common type of eczema that typically starts in infancy—is associated with a rash of other problems, including asthma, allergies, hay fever, and sleep and weight problems. And trying to treat it costs US consumers nearly $4 billion a year, reports the Huffington Post. Now a team of researchers at Northwestern is celebrating its findings that a daily full-body application of moisturizing cream for the first six months of a baby's life can cost as little as $7 and appears effective at preventing the development of eczema in infants with close family members who have it. "We could really save a lot of newborns—and save families—a lot of suffering," says one of the researchers. "It’s also a pretty good deal in terms of cost."

There are still many unknowns. It's still unclear, for instance, what causes eczema in the first place, or how moisturizers appear to be preventing it, or even whether certain moisturizers are superior to others, reports Reuters. The researchers treated all equally here, though they did sort out the cost of a six-month supply and found that Vaseline is the most affordable at 4 cents per application and $7.30 over six months, while Avinoply was the most expensive at $173 over over six months, the researchers report in JAMA Pediatrics. Because petroleum jelly (Vaseline) is a byproduct of the oil refining process, the Huffington Post notes that those who prefer an alternative moisturizer might consider sunflower seed oil, the second cheapest option at $18.25 over six months. (One woman died trying this "miracle cure" with bleach.)

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