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.