Should You Apply Kajal Or Surma To Newborn’s Eyes? Things To Consider

kajal for newborn

In many cultures, the application of kajal or surma to newborns’ eyes is a longstanding tradition believed to have cultural significance and health benefits. However, concerns regarding its safety have been raised, prompting a closer examination of its potential effects on infant eye health. This article explores the safety considerations surrounding the application of kajal to newborns’ eyes.

Historical and Cultural Significance

Kajal, also known as Surma, has a rich cultural history and holds symbolic significance in various traditions worldwide. From South Asia to the Middle East and North Africa, the application of kajal to infants’ eyes is considered auspicious and is believed to protect against the evil eye, promote good health, and enhance eye strength. This practice is deeply ingrained in cultural rituals and is often passed down through generations.

Composition and Ingredients

Traditional kajal formulations typically consist of a mixture of herbs, oils, and minerals. However, modern commercial kajal products may contain additional ingredients such as lead, mercury, and other heavy metals. These substances raise concerns about potential toxicity and adverse effects on infant health, particularly considering the delicate nature of newborns’ developing eyes.

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Safety Considerations

Safety considerations surrounding the application of kajal (Surma) to newborns’ eyes are paramount and encompass several crucial aspects that parents and caregivers should be aware of:

Contaminants and Toxicity: Traditional kajal formulations may contain heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic, which pose significant health risks, particularly to infants. These toxic substances can accumulate in the body over time, leading to developmental delays, cognitive impairments, and other adverse effects. Additionally, kajal products sourced from unregulated sources or homemade preparations may be contaminated with bacteria or fungi, further exacerbating the risk of infection.

Eye Irritation and Injury: The act of applying kajal involves direct contact with the delicate mucous membranes of the eyes, increasing the likelihood of irritation, abrasions, or corneal scratches. Infants’ eyes are particularly sensitive and susceptible to damage, and improper application techniques or contaminated applicators can introduce pathogens or foreign particles, leading to inflammation or injury.

Risk of Infection: Kajal application can disrupt the natural microbial balance of the eyes, potentially leading to infections such as conjunctivitis (pink eye) or keratitis. Newborns are especially vulnerable to eye infections due to their immature immune systems and limited ability to fend off pathogens. Moreover, sharing kajal applicators between individuals or using contaminated products can facilitate the transmission of infectious agents, further increasing the risk of disease transmission.

Lack of Scientific Evidence: Despite traditional beliefs regarding the benefits of kajal for infant eye health, there is limited scientific evidence to support these claims. While some herbal ingredients may possess mild antimicrobial properties, their efficacy in preventing eye infections or promoting eye strength remains unproven. In contrast, the potential risks associated with kajal use outweigh any perceived benefits, making it an unwise practice from a medical standpoint.

Developmental Concerns: Infancy is a critical period of rapid growth and development, particularly for the eyes and visual system. Exposure to toxic substances or harmful contaminants during this vulnerable stage can have long-lasting consequences on visual acuity, cognitive function, and overall health. Lead poisoning, in particular, has been linked to neurodevelopmental impairments and behavioural problems, underscoring the importance of avoiding exposure to hazardous substances.

Health Implications: Exposure to toxic substances such as lead and mercury poses significant health risks, particularly to infants whose developing brains and nervous systems are more susceptible to damage. Lead poisoning can lead to developmental delays, learning disabilities, and behavioural problems, while mercury toxicity can cause neurological impairments and systemic damage.

Furthermore, repeated application of kajal may disrupt the natural microbial balance of the eyes, increasing the risk of infections and inflammation. Newborns are especially vulnerable to eye infections such as neonatal conjunctivitis, which can result in serious complications if left untreated.

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Guidelines and Recommendations

Here are some key guidelines and recommendations:

Avoidance of Kajal Use: Healthcare professionals universally advise against the application of kajal to newborns’ eyes due to the potential risks of contamination, toxicity, and infection. Parents and caregivers should refrain from using kajal or any similar products on infants, regardless of cultural or traditional beliefs.

Promotion of Hygienic Practices: Instead of kajal application, parents should focus on maintaining good hygiene practices to protect their infants’ eye health. This includes regular cleaning of the eyes with sterile saline solution or clean water using a soft, sterile cloth or cotton ball. Caregivers should ensure that their hands are clean before touching the baby’s eyes to minimise the risk of infection.

Routine Eye Care: As part of routine paediatric care, infants should undergo regular eye examinations to assess visual development and detect any potential eye problems early on. Parents should schedule appointments with a paediatrician or ophthalmologist for comprehensive eye evaluations as recommended by healthcare guidelines.

Education and Awareness: Healthcare providers play a crucial role in educating parents and caregivers about the potential risks associated with kajal use and promoting evidence-based practices for infant eye care. They should provide clear and accurate information about the dangers of using kajal, including the presence of toxic substances and the risk of eye infections.

Cultural Sensitivity and Respect: While advocating against the use of kajal, healthcare professionals should approach families with cultural sensitivity and respect for their traditions and beliefs. Open dialogue and communication can help bridge the gap between cultural practices and medical recommendations, fostering understanding and cooperation.

Alternative Protective Measures: To address concerns about the evil eye or other cultural beliefs, parents can explore alternative methods for protecting their infants, such as using protective charms or amulets, reciting prayers, or performing rituals that do not involve direct application to the eyes. Healthcare providers can offer suggestions for culturally appropriate practices that align with safety guidelines.

Regulatory Oversight: Manufacturers should be held accountable for complying with safety standards and accurately labelling their products with ingredient information and warnings about potential hazards.

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While the application of kajal to newborns’ eyes holds cultural significance in many communities, its safety remains a subject of concern due to potential contamination and exposure to toxic substances. For more such blogs, read EuroSchool.

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