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Mystery Rash Linked to Common Baby Wipe Preservative

Update Date: Jan 13, 2014 03:46 PM EST

Baby wipes have been linked to rashes in children and adults. While wet wipes are supposed to reduce the risk of developing skin problems, new research reveals some wipes are actually increasing the risk.

Scientists discovered a common preservative called methylisothiazolinone (MI) found in many baby wipes can cause acute contact dermatitis, according to CBS. The skin condition, which can lead to itchy, scaly, red rashes in adults and children, is often misdiagnosed as more serious conditions like eczema, impetigo and psoriasis.

"Dermatitis of the perianal, buttock, facial, and hand areas with a history of wet wipe use should raise suspicion of [acute contact dermatitis] to MI and prompt appropriate patch testing," wrote Dr. Mary Chang and Radhika Nakrani of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, according to Fox News.

Chang and her team looked at six children who had been diagnosed with the mysterious rash. One of the patients included was an 8-year-old girl who had developed a rash on her face and body. Researchers said that antibiotics and steroids did not keep the rash away. After examining the girl's medical history and results from allergy tests, researchers found that the girl was suffering from an allergic reaction, according to the Daily Mail.

Researchers explained that previous studies revealed that methylisothiazolinone, a preservative found in baby wipes and lotions, could lead to bad allergic reactions. Recently, some manufacturers have also increased the concentration of methylisothiazolinone in products by up to 25 times. Chang and her team said this is worrying because greater exposure could lead to greater intolerance of methylisothiazolinone.

"More and more people are using these products and becoming sensitized to the preservative," said Chang, according to WebMD. She added, "with increased marketing and popularity of disposable wet wipes for all ages, there will likely be more people developing allergies to the preservative."

Researchers found that the girl's rash cleared up after her mother stopped using the wipes.

Chang told NBC that parents should limit the use of baby wipes.

"I have three kids, so I know how hard it is to do the changes, especially when you're traveling. But maybe when you're at home, it would be better to use a gentle cleanser and water. That way you minimize exposure," she said.

The findings are published in the journal Pediatrics

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