Baby wipe preservative can cause allergic rash, doctors find

Some baby wipes can cause an itchy, allergic rash, U.S. pediatricians say.

6 children diagnosed with dermatitis on hands, face, buttocks tied to use of baby wipes

Some baby wipes can cause an itchy, allergic rash, U.S. pediatricians say. 

Baby wipes are extensively tested and traditionally used on babies with few reactions, doctors say in Monday's issue of the journal Pediatrics. But acute contact dermatitis, a rash, to a preservative in wet wipes is frequently misdiagnosed as eczema, impetigo or psoriasis, they say.

Dermatitis of the buttock, face and hand areas with a history of using wet wipes should raise suspicion of acute contact dermatitis to methylisothiazolinone or MI, Dr. Mary Chang and Radhika Nakrani of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, Conn., concluded.

Dr. Mary Chung say an eight-year-girl's ad rash cleared in less than two days after use of baby wipes were discontinued. (Courtesy Dr. Mary Chang)

"My advice is that parents should try to minimize the use of wet wipes on their children to minimize exposure to preservatives, fragrance and other ingredients that can cause allergic reactions," Chang recommended in an email.

Chang suggests using paper towels and a gentle cleanser and water at home, and maybe just using wipes when travelling or out of the house.

Patients with allergies should avoid the preservative in personal care and household products, such as shampoo, liquid cleansers and lotions, Chang said.

Wet wipes are increasingly marketed for personal care products for all ages and allergies to the preservative will likely increase, the researchers said. 

In their published case report, Chang described six children in the U.S. who were diagnosed with acute contact dermatitis to MI in wet wipes. 

The first case involved a previously healthy eight-year-old girl who visited a dermatologist after a six-week history of an itchy, scaly, red rash on the cheeks and around the mouth. The pediatrician initially diagnosed psoriasis or impetigo, a bacterial infection, and prescribed several antibiotics and corticosteroids, both orally and on the skin.

The girl's rash kept coming back.

"I patch tested her and she had a dramatic reaction to the preservative," Chang recalled.

The reaction cleared up quickly, in less than two days, after the mother stopped using Cottonelle and Huggies wipes that contain MI on the girl, Chang said.

The six cases presented between March 2011 and January 2013. 

The allergies were confirmed with patch tests to MI. 

Contact allergies can also develop over time, Chang noted, so a product that was OK before might suddenly cause a rash.


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