Disposable nappies for preventing napkin dermatitis in infants

E L Baer, M W Davies, K J Easterbrook
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006 July 19, (3): CD004262

BACKGROUND: Napkin dermatitis is a common condition that occurs in otherwise healthy infants. It causes discomfort to infants, anxiety to parents and caregivers and contributes to the load on the health care system. A large variety of napkins, both disposable and non-disposable, are available. Evidence is required to assist carers and health care workers in making informed decisions when balancing the pros and cons of different napkin choices.

OBJECTIVES: To assess whether disposable napkins prevent napkin dermatitis in infants.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Skin Group Specialised Register (up to June 2003), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials in (The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 2004), MEDLINE (from 1966 to November 2004), EMBASE (from 1980 to February 2003) and CINAHL (from 1982 to November 2004). We searched reference lists of articles. We contacted lead investigators in the area and companies that manufacture disposable napkins for access to unpublished trials.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials in which disposable napkins were compared with other types of disposable napkins or non-disposable napkins, in infants up to two years of age, for preventing napkin dermatitis.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors independently extracted data. The same two authors independently assessed trials for methodological quality. Attempts were made to contact trial authors of the trials identified for clarification of methods and results of published trials.

MAIN RESULTS: We identified 28 studies of the effects of various napkin types on napkin dermatitis. Seventeen studies from nine reports were included. Eleven studies were excluded due to methodology that did not fit the inclusion criteria of this review. Due to the poor reporting of methodology and results of the studies found in this review, there were no quantitative data available for analysis (or meta-analysis). Although the included studies appeared to favour cellulose-core disposable napkins over cloth, absorbent gelling material over cellulose-only core napkins, breathable outer shell over occlusive outer shell napkins and linings impregnated with formulations over plain linings, all of these studies were open to bias due to flawed methodology.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: There is not enough evidence from good quality randomised controlled trials to support or refute the use and type of disposable napkins for the prevention of napkin dermatitis in infants.

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