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Baby Wipes Preservative Causes Skin Rashes in Children

By HERWriter
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A preservative in baby wipes was determined to be the cause of skin rashes in six children. Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is a preservative in wet wipes which has been linked to chronic, reoccurring contact dermatitis on the facial and groin areas of these children.

Cottonelle and Huggies were the brands of wipes the families had been using. The rashes on all of the children quickly resolved and did not return once they stopped using the wipes.

A case study about these children was reported in the journal Pediatrics by Mary Wu Chang, MD, from the Department of Dermatology and the Department of Pediatrics, and medical student Radhika Nakrani, BS, from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington.

The first case they observed was a healthy eight-year-old girl who had a recurring rash on her face and buttock area for six weeks. The mother had relayed to doctors that the girl used wet wipes on her face for facial cleansing, as well as after using the toilet.

The mother was told by her doctor to stop using wipes on the girl. The mother switched brands and the rashes continued. Once the mother discontinued using any wipe products on her daughter, the rash resolved.

Other cases of similar rashes appeared in five children who were being treated by their own doctors. Some were misdiagnosed with various skin infections and were given antibiotics and steroids over several months of treatment.

Chang and Nakrani diagnosed the correct cause of these other children’s contact dermatitis rashes, which they confirmed with standard patch testing with low methylisothiazolinone concentrations.

Once it was determined that the children were having allergic reactions to MI, and their use of wipes was discontinued, their rashes resolved.

As reported on Medscape, the the authors wrote that MI had been thought to be a harmless preservative in baby wipes and that overall, baby wipes have been "extensively tested and traditionally believed to be innocuous."

MI can also be found in other personal care products such as shampoo, soaps, lotions and household paint, so diligent label reading is needed to avoid exposure.

Kimberly-Clark, the maker of both brands of baby wipes, said it plans to put baby wipes and other personal care products without the MI preservative on store shelves this month, reported CBS news.

Parents are cautioned to limit their use of baby wipes to only when traveling or away from home, Chang told CBS news. At home, using paper towels with a gentle cleanser or using a wet washcloth is a safer method, “like the old days,” she continued.

“Wet wipes are increasingly marketed in personal care products for all ages, and MI exposure and sensitization will likely increase. Dermatitis of the perianal, buttock, facial, and hand areas with a history of wet wipe use should raise suspicion of ACD (acute contact dermatitis) to MI,” the authors wrote in their report.


Mary Wu Chang, MDa and Radhika Nakrani, BS. Case Report. Six Children With Allergic Contact Dermatitis to Methylisothiazolinone in Wet Wipes (Baby Wipes). Published online January 13, 2014(doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-1453). Abstract:

Baby wipe chemical tied to allergic reactions in some kids. CBSnews.com. Retrieved Jan. 22, 2014.

Skin Rashes in Children Linked to Preservative in Wet Wipes. Larry Hand. January 13, 2014. Retrieved Jan. 22, 2014.

Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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