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Research into a preservative used in baby wipes points to chronic allergic reaction

By Simon Pitman+

14-Jan-2014
Last updated on 14-Jan-2014 at 16:46 GMT

New research into a preservative commonly used in baby wipes points to evidence that it can lead to chronic allergic skin reactions in children following exposure.

The research, carried out by Dr. Mary Wu Chang and Radhika Nakrani at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine was conducted into six cases of children known to have had a reaction to the preservative methylisothiazolinone (MI), which is commonly used in a host of personal care and household products.

For many years MI was used in combination with Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI), but more recently MI has been increasingly used on its own because of known problems with allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) thought to have been more associated with MCI.

Preservative isolated as a cause of ACD

But according to the research six children with chronic, perianal/buttock, and facial eczematous dermatitis, refractory to multiple topical and oral antibiotics and corticosteroids were identified following suspected use of baby wipes containing MCI/MI).

All the patients had been using wet wipes prior to the allergic reaction, and all tested positive for MCI/MI after a patch testing, while discontinuing use of the wipes led to a rapid resolution of the problem.

According to the research, the primary skin reaction to the preservative is an angry red rash, which can sometimes be misdiagnosed as either psoriasis or eczema.

Areas affected by rash coincided with wipe use

The researchers noted that the areas most commonly affected by the rash from the wipes was around both the hands, mouth and the buttocks, which is also the areas that parents tend to most use the baby wipes on their children.

The research team concludes that as MI is increasingly used in personal care products such as baby wipes, that parents should be more aware of the potential for ACD, and that should an outbreak occur, discontinuing use should see the rash clear up rapidly.

But ultimately the researchers also state that the allergic reaction to this particular type of preservative remains relatively rare and that baby wipes are likely to remain an important part of a baby care personal care routine, particularly for parents on the go.

US media pounces on the story...

The journal report was picked up on by US media and the story has appeared in a cross-section of national news publications.

“They’re so convenient. I have three kids so I know how hard it is to do the changes, especially when you’re traveling,” said Dr. Chang in an interview with NBC.

“But maybe when you’re at home, it would be better to use a gentle cleanser and water. That way you minimize exposure.”

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