Skin infections in babies are as common as oxygen in this part of the world. It is one of the challenges nursing mothers face as far as bringing up their babies is concerned. A large percentage of these infections are caused by pathogenic organisms, especially fungi, perhaps due to the climatic factors that create favourable ambiance for the growth of these pathogens.
Generally, most fungal species require warm temperature and adequate moisture in order to thrive and the tropical environment is blessed with both attributes in a perfect requirement for their growth. Combine the favourable environment for fungal growth along with the sensitivity of babies' skin and what we have is an optimized recipe for skin infections in babies.
Not all skin disorders in babies are caused by pathogenic organisms though, as I pointed out earlier. An example is skin rashes which is often commonly observed in babies born in a hot and humid climate such as the tropical climate. Generally, a combination of warm temperature and high humidity is a perfect recipe for sweating in individuals. Babies, however, have poorly developed sweat glands. Thus, the sweat that should ordinarily percolate through the skin surface ends up being trapped beneath the organ, leading to inflammation and rashes.
Nappy rashes are caused by a variety of factors that can be both biotic (pathogenic organisms) or abiotic. When babies urinate or defecate in their nappies, frictional irritation can occur as the nappy slides over the skin around the loin. This is often made worse by the presence of ammonia in the urine and poo as the compound is known to be a skin irritant.
The nappy area is usually extra warm and when babies urinate, a combination of warm temperature and moisture provides a favourable environment for organisms such as Candida albicans to thrive and cause pimples-like rashes known as thrush in the nappy region on babies' skins.
Another skin infection common in babies around here is the intertrigo. It is particularly found in chubby babies where the presence of skinfold creates irritation and micro-environment for certain species of fungi and bacteria to thrive.
A variety of treatment methods are employed by nursing mothers to tackle these skin infections in their babies. While many would follow the conventional path of visiting hospitals and get prescribed relevant drugs that may or may not work, a large percentage of nursing mothers resort to herbs and traditional medicines to tackle the skin disorders. In actual fact, many employ herbs as prophylaxis without waiting for the infections to start appearing on their babies.
One of the most popular herbs used both as prophylaxis and for treating skin disorders in babies around here is the Acalypha wilkesiana plant, otherwise known as copper leaf. It is a perennial herb that grows as high as just a few meters in the Euphorbiaceae plant family. The leaves are plucked and boiled fresh or after sun-drying for some time and the decoction is used to bathe babies either to as a prophylaxis or treatment for skin infections.
Another herb that is popular around here for tackling babies' skin disorders is scientifically known as Physalis angulata. It is an annual plant in the Solanaceae family whose leaves are also boiled, usually fresh, and the decoction is used to bathe babies either to prevent or treat skin disorders.
How effective are these herbs? The available anecdotal and scientific evidence speaks volumes. My toddler was bathed with a decoction of copper leaves for the first four months after his birth and never had any skin infection until 2 months after we stopped the practice due to the inconvenience of having to get and boil the leaves.
Aside from my personal testimony and other anecdotal evidence, scientific investigations have given credence to the antifungal activities of extracts derived from the leaves of Acalypha wilkesiana. Some of these investigations include Haruna et al. (2013), Anokwuru et al. (2015), Aremu and Adekoya (2020) among other scientific investigations.
Anecdotal and scientific evidence also abounds as far as the antifungal efficacy of Physalis angulata is concerned. Some of the scientific evidence include Silva et al. (2005), Osho et al. (2010), Torabzadeh and Panahi, (2011), among many others.
Thank you all for reading.