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Menthol-infused lotions pose danger to infants

Menthol-infused baby oil that is commonly used to relieve abdominal pain in infants is dangerous for children under two years of age and their use on infants has been banned by the Food and Drug Administration in China.

Menthol is a neural inhibitor that relaxes the smooth muscles and suppresses intestinal movements. According to Paediatrician Chang Yu-tzu, this is why application of menthol-infused oils and ointments relieve abdominal pain.
According to Chung, abdominal pain in babies can be induced by colic or in rare cases, intussusception (where one portion of the bowel slides into the next, much like the pieces of a telescope).

        "While menthol provides relief, it is unsafe for infants because their skin is sensitive and their central nervous system is more vulnerable to the effects of menthol," Chang said.

The Food and Drug Administration of China banned menthol oils, ointments and inhalants for children under two years of age several years ago.

When absorbed through the skin, excessive menthol can induce seizure, impair consciousness and inhibit breathing. The risks are heightened when menthol-infused substances are ingested, inhaled or rubbed on the face or chest of an infant.

Dr. Chung advises that a safe way to relieve bloating and abdominal pain in an infant is to massage their stomach in a clockwise direction. Ointments should only be used when recommended by a paediatrician and if parents are unsure of what oil or medium to use for massage, they can consult a Certified Infant Massage Instructor.