Dermatologists are reporting an increase of cases of contact dermatitis caused by a preservative commonly found in baby wipes.
Researchers from the Skin and Cancer Foundation in Melbourne have discovered that the preservative, methylisothiazolinone (MI), is the most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis amongst patients.
MI has been used to increase the shelf life of deodorants, shampoos and cosmetics for over 10 years, but is now also commonly found in disposable baby wipes.
The researchers found that as many as one in 10 are allergic to MI. It can take up to 48 hours for the reaction to occur. The condition most commonly appears as a rash on the sufferer's hands, but can appear on any part of the body that comes into contact with the preservative.
Professor Nixon who carried out the study believes the reaction is likely to be misdiagnosed amongst both adults and infants. She said, “I'm sure we only see the tip of the iceberg in our clinic; there's probably a bit more out there than people realise.”
Allergic contact dermatitis can be misdiagnosed as nappy rash due to the similar appearances of the two conditions. If you think you or your baby may be suffering from allergic contact dermatitis, use product elimination to try and determine the cause.
Professor Nixon advises parents to check the ingredients before purchasing disposable baby wipes, and to avoid any that contain MI. Remember though, disposable baby wipes are not the only option for nappy changes. Another easy, and gentler, option is to make your own baby wipes.
The rapid increase in cases of contact allergic dermatitis caused by exposure to MI has concerned experts. Dermatologists expect up to 2% of patients to suffer an allergic reaction to a cosmetic product. The rate of reactions to MI is currently around 11% Professor Nixon contacted manufacturers directly to inform them of the study, and some manufacturers are now looking at ways to replace the preservative in their products.