Rubbing a dose of sugar gel into the inside of the cheek of premature babies is a cheap and effective way to protect them against brain damage, say experts.
Dangerously low blood sugar affects about one in 10 babies born too early. Untreated, it can cause permanent harm.
Researchers from New Zealand tested the gel therapy in 242 babies under their care and, based on the results, say it should now be a first-line treatment.
The researcher’s work is published in The Lancet.
Dextrose gel treatment costs just over $1.5 per baby and is simpler to administer than glucose via a drip, say Prof. Jane Harding and her team at the University of Auckland.
Current treatment typically involves extra feeding and repeated blood tests to measure blood sugar levels.
But many babies are admitted to intensive care and given intravenous glucose because their blood sugar remains low – a condition doctors call hypoglycaemia.
The study assessed whether treatment with dextrose gel was more effective than feeding alone at reversing hypoglycaemia.