Baby Wipes Containing This Chemical May Be Dangerous
Baby wipes aren't just for babies. In fact, they have all kinds of everyday uses. But be careful. Not all baby wipes are created equal. Baby wipes containing a specific chemical preservative -- methylisothiazolinone -- have the potential to cause severe skin irritation for some kids. And with the possible reactions ranging from itchy, red rashes to painful, cracked skin, you want to be sure you're checking the labels!
Credit: ThinkStock (left) / Dr. Mary Wu Chang (right)
Mysterious Skin Irritation
Dr. Mary Wu Chang, an associate professor of dermatology and pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, became suspicious of baby wipes when an 8-year-old girl came to her with a severe rash on her mouth and buttocks. Doctors had tried giving the poor girl antibiotics and steroids, but the rash just kept coming back.
Since the other medications hadn't worked, Dr. Chang figured this must be an allergic reaction. But what could be causing it?
“What made me think of the wipes was that the rash was on her face and on her buttocks,” Dr. Chang said. “So I asked the mother what she was using to clean her.”
Making The Connection
The little girl's mother confirmed she often used baby wipes to clean her daughter. Dr. Chang knew there were many brands of baby wipes containing methylisothiazolinone (MI). And she'd read a report about a Belgian man who'd had a severe reaction to that exact chemical.
So, Dr. Chang tested the girl for an allergy to MI. The reports came back positive. The girl's mom stopped using the baby wipes, and the rash finally went away for good!
More And More Cases
Over the course of the next year, Dr. Chang saw five more children with mysterious rashes. All of them cleared up once their parents stopped using baby wipes.
Dr. Chang used her findings to co-author an official study linking MI -- found in baby wipes and other personal care products -- with the potential for severe allergic reactions. And she suspects the allergic reactions are not limited to the six cases she witnessed.
“I think it may be more common than people realize,” she said.
The problem is the other cases are most likely being mistaken for other skin conditions like eczema, impetigo, and psoriasis.
Another expert, Dr. Robin Gehris of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has also seen more and more kids having reactions to baby wipes. She suspects it's because manufacturers have significantly increased the amount of MI used in wipes.
“I think this is a really important issue,” Dr. Gehris said. "It’s hard for people to imagine when something called hypoallergenic [could contain] things that could cause a problem.”
Additionally, this chemical shows up in other personal care products, such as make-up, lotions and shampoos.
What This Means For You
This is not to say that you have to stop using baby wipes entirely. Not everyone is allergic to MI, and not all wipes contain the chemical. But definitely make sure you're checking labels on the products you buy, including baby wipes.
If you're using baby wipes containing MI, keep a close eye on yours and your children's skin. Stop use right away if you begin to see irritation. Other suggestions are to only use baby wipes when necessary -- use moist paper towels or a wet towel instead when possible.
Please be sure to share this story with everyone you know in case they may have this allergy!
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