Pressure ulcers, also called bedsores, are a frequent problem in people with limited mobility for medical reasons, such as those in hospitals or nursing homes. They commonly develop in the tailbone, hips, and heels, creating challenges for the caregivers and sometimes leading to serious complications.1
The oil extracted from olives is rich in anti-inflammatory compounds and fats that are known to have beneficial effects for the skin, including hydrating it, regenerating its layers, and maintaining its elasticity. With such actions, it may be a good topical solution for preventing pressure ulcers naturally.
The aim of the study was to determine whether topical application of olive oil solution is effective for the prevention of pressure ulcers.
Researchers recruited 571 residents living in 23 nursing homes throughout the Cordoba province in southern Spain. Participants were bed- or chair-bound elderlies with mixed incontinence and a high pressure ulcer risk.
Half of them (designated as the control group) were treated with a hyperoxygenated fatty acid compound, which is standard solution for pressure ulcer prevention. The other half (designed as the intervention group) was treated with an olive oil solution.
Both solutions were applied to skin areas at risk of pressure ulcers every 12 hours for 30 days or until a pressure ulcer appeared.
Out of 537 residents that completed the trial, 29 developed pressure ulcers.
The incidence of pressure ulcers was 4.18% in the intervention group (11 residents) and 6.47% in the control group (18 residents).
There were no side effects reported in the olive oil-receiving residents.
What Does this Mean?
To authors' knowledge, this is the first clinical trial providing evidence that applying olive oil topically is effective for preventing pressure ulcers. Its efficacy was comparable to standard solution used in healthcare facilities.
This is great news not only for caregivers in nursing home and hospital settings, but also families caring for immobilized relatives at home. It gives them a natural, easily obtainable product that can protect fragile, at-risk skin areas and prevent ulcer formation, thus reducing the pain and improving the quality of life of treated individuals.
Other oils with skin-nourishing properties are extracted from shea, coconut, and almonds.
- International Wound Journal, Effectiveness and safety of olive oil preparation for topical use in pressure ulcer prevention: Multicentre, controlled, randomized, and double-blinded clinical trial, 2019
- Mayo Clinic. (2020). Bedsores (pressure ulcers). Retrieved October 1, 2020 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bed-sores/symptoms-causes/syc-20355893