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Mum gnawed by guilt over ‘giving son poison’, after using Star Cream bought online for baby’s skin rash

SINGAPORE — When Mrs Huang’s newborn son started developing a nappy rash, she decided to try a cream that was recommended by the confinement nanny whom she had hired to look after the child.
Mum gnawed by guilt over ‘giving son poison’, after using Star Cream bought online for baby’s skin rash
  • A mother of two decided to use a skin product known as Star Cream on her baby to treat rashes
  • A confinement nanny she hired had extolled the benefits of the cream to her 
  • The mother said she did her research and found positive reviews but no mention that it contained steroids
  • The baby suffered a severe reaction, was hospitalised and diagnosed as having Cushing’s syndrome
  • This was caused by a prolonged use of steroids

SINGAPORE — When Mrs Huang’s newborn son started developing a nappy rash, she decided to try a cream that was recommended by the confinement nanny whom she had hired to look after the child.

The 43-year-old life sciences researcher, who declined to give her full name, was told by the Malaysian nanny that the skin product, known as Star Cream, contained no steroids and that it was an effective way of treating rashes.

The nanny was already using the cream on the baby boy after she was hired in December. It was her own bottle of Star Cream, which she received from a previous client that had bought the bottles in bulk.

The woman, who purportedly has more than 10 years of experience looking after children, even showed Mrs Huang how the cream had healed a red patch on her son’s skin.

After that, the mother of two decided to fork out around S$100 for an 80ml bottle that she found on online shopping site Shopee.

It turned out to be a big mistake.

On Thursday (June 9), the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) issued a warning against the use of Star Cream, stating that the skin product had caused "steroid toxicity" in an infant — Mrs Huang’s son — even though it was marketed on online shopping sites as a homemade cream that did not contain steroids.

As a result of using the product, Mrs Huang’s son, who was four months old when he was hospitalised, suffered persistent vomiting and developed an abnormal eye alignment and a bulging head.

The baby was later diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome, a serious medical condition caused by prolonged use of steroids.

The Health Sciences Authority warned against the use of skin product Star Cream (pictured), which was sold on online retail sites such as Shopee and Carousell.

Mrs Huang told TODAY that before she bought the product, she did try to find out more information about it online.

What she found were positive reviews and an advertisement about how the product was “all naturally made” from herbs. She said that no details were given about the ingredients. 

Mrs Huang said it might sound strange that an educated woman like her could miss out on the finer details, but she explained that when “you hear comments (about how good the cream is) from the confinement lady (who has years of experience), you will trust her”.

The severe reactions her baby boy experienced did not surface until April, when she returned to work. Up until then, the cream was being applied on him regularly.

Just over a week before the child was hospitalised at Mount Alvernia Hospital on the evening of May 2, Mrs Huang said that she had stopped using the cream on him because the cream had finished and she had yet to buy another bottle.

HSA said earlier on Thursday that if the cream was used and then stopped suddenly without medical supervision, it may result in worsening of underlying skin conditions and other serious withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, confusion and low blood pressure.

On the morning before the child was hospitalised, Mrs Huang noticed that her son was very lethargic and he eventually started vomiting, which prompted her and her husband to rush their child to the hospital’s emergency department.

The doctors thought at first that the child was suffering from stomach flu, though he had no signs of a fever. They then put the infant through a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan when they saw the bulge on his head.

Still, the doctors could not find the cause of the child’s sickness until one of them asked if Mrs Huang had been applying any kind of cream on her son.

When she showed the doctor the bottle of cream, she was told it “looked suspicious” and that it may contained steroids, which a laboratory test by HSA confirmed.

The visible side effects that the child experienced from having Star Cream applied on him eventually subsided within the week he was hospitalised, but he has yet to fully recover, his mother said.

As a result of using the cream, the child’s cortisol levels dropped and he is now on medication to bring it back to normal, which Mrs Huang hopes will be by the end of the year.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by adrenal glands that is needed in the right amounts for the proper functioning of the body. Too little can cause fatigue, while too much could lead to fragile skin and slower healing, among other symptoms.

Mrs Huang said: “My advice to parents is, please, please only use creams from big (reputable) brands. Don’t use those creams that you have never heard of.”

My advice to parents is, please, please only use creams from big (reputable) brands. Don’t use those creams that you have never heard of.
Mrs Huang, mother of two whose son became seriously ill after using a skin cream she bought online

The entire episode left Mrs Huang feeling depressed and she found herself lacking the mood to do anything.

Her family, both immediate and extended, were equally affected by the incident.

“I feel very guilty because I was giving my son poison,” she said.

When asked if she intends to take legal action against the sellers of the cream, Mrs Huang said that she is still thinking about it.

“I'm not sure if I really want to press charges, but if I don't do anything, this company will go scot-free.”

She feels upset whenever she thinks about her son going through the horrendous ordeal.

The confinement nanny has yet to respond to the news articles of the HSA report that Mrs Huang sent to her.

Mrs Huang said that she has also forwarded the news articles to the “mummy chat groups” on her phone, to warn others about Star Cream. 

Aside from Shopee, where Mrs Huang initially bought the product, the cream was also sold on Carousell as well as on Facebook.

Investigations are ongoing and HSA has worked with the administrators of these shopping sites to remove the affected listings. The seller of Star Cream is also assisting HSA in its probe.

TODAY found that the listings have been removed as of 11.30am on Thursday.

Related topics

health products steroid skin cream HSA baby cushing's syndrome online shopping

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