Many are unaware of the proper disposal method too

Diapers for children are becoming quite common even among less affluent families but its prolonged use is compromising the health of babies and infants, say doctors.

A team of doctors from Chennai Medical College near Samayapuram in Tiruchi studied 600 children below the age of five, who were brought to the outpatient department over four months.

“We wanted to know if parents are aware of how to use diapers and what complications the children faced.  But by not changing the diaper frequently, the child becomes susceptible to urinary tract infections or e-coli if there is fecal matter,” says R. Abishek, one of the authors of the study.

The study further revealed that more than 95% of the parents did not know that the prolonged use of diapers could harm the child. Also, many did not know the right method to dispose diapers. They discarded used diapers with fecal matter.

S. Elango, president of the Tamil Nadu chapter of the Indian Public Health Association, says studies have shown diapers cause skin rashes and could lead to toxic infant syndrome in babies. “We don’t have a certification agency in India for infant products. The alternative is to rope in NGOs to develop diapers and have a surgeon certify them,” he says. According to Public Health Department sources, a suggestion to get women SHGs to produce diapers never took off.

The concerns are significant as diaper use is a common practice even in government hospitals. S. Srinivasan, State coordinator for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, says though diapers are used for babies, nurses are constantly checking on them.

“We do not insist on diapers. Diapers are included in the operational costs of the NICU. The government gives sufficient funds and it is a recurring expenditure. It is true that children develop dermititis if diapers are not changed frequently. If the mother is comfortable with the practice of using cloth diapers and is regularly changing them, the baby will not develop dermititis,” he says.

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