What’s causing this rash?

As allergists, we see many patients with rashes of all types.   There are many different causes of rashes, and one type has been in the news lately–a preservative found in many popular wet wipes and baby wipes has been determined as the cause of allergic contact dermatitis in some children. Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by exposure to a substance or material to which the patient has become extra sensitive or allergic.  Although a reaction to a substance may not first happen when the patient is first exposed to it, regular use can eventually cause sensitivity and a skin reaction to the product.

The skin reactions from the wipes that have been recently reported have ranged from disfiguring patches to crusting, swelling, blistering and tiny cracks in the mouth, cheek, hands and/or buttocks of young patients.  Recently, researchers have reported that all of the skin reactions involved certain brands of wipes.  The children were between the ages of 3 and 8, and none were wearing diapers.

The brands of wipes that have caused the rashes contain a well-known preservative, called methylisothiazolinone (MI), a chemical that is found in roughly half of all the wipes sold in the United States.

In the latest cases of skin reactions that have been reported, standard antibiotic and steroid cream treatments were initially given for what doctors had incorrectly diagnosed as one of a number of common skin conditions. These treatments didn’t work, but when the children stopped using the wipes, their skin recovered.

The rashes were proven to be caused by the preservative by patch testing, a method of putting various substances on the skin using a sticker-like sample, and seeing how the skin reacts.

The board certified allergist can help determine if someone has allergic contact dermatitis to a number of different substances.  We would start by taking a detailed history, doing a thorough physical exam, then determine if patch testing would be appropriate in helping determine the cause of the rash!


-Faith Huang

Allergy & Asthma Associates of Southern California provides relief from allergies, asthma, sinus problems, chronic cough and other related conditions. Dr. William E. Berger, Dr. Warner W. Carr, Dr. Mark S. SugarDr. Christina D. Schwindt, and Dr. Faith R. Huang together with their staff specialize in allergy and immunology in Southern California.

If you or your child is suffering from allergic contact dermatitis or any other type of  allergy, please call us at (949) 364-2900 to schedule your appointment today. You can also use our online Request an Appointment form to schedule a future appointment.

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