Guess what caused this horrific allergic reaction

Written by Nalika Unantenne

Baby wipes are one of the most commonly used baby care products around the world. But a harsh chemical preservative used in some brands of wet wipes has been linked to painful rashes that appear on children's skin. Find out more as well as some great alternatives to using wet wipes at all.

From the day your child is born, you look for the best, most gentle baby-care products out there to provide optimum care for your little angel. One such product is baby wipes. You use them on your child from day 1 – whether to clean your newborn’s little bum-bum or to wipe smears of chocolate off the face of your 3-year old. They are the convenient solution for the inevitable messiness of children.

MI allergic reaction1 Guess what caused this horrific allergic reaction

The terrible rash caused by the chemical MI in baby wipes around the girl’s mouth
Image from Dr Mary Chang

Never would you imagine that baby wipes can cause terrible harm to your precious child. But they can.

RELATED: Ask the expert about allergies in children

What makes some baby wipes harmful?

According to a report in the, recent research has found that Methylisothiazolin (MI), a chemical preservative used in some brands of baby wipes, can cause severe allergic reactions in some children in the form of a painful red rash on the part of the body that the wipe is used on.

Until now, the link between MI and allergic reactions had not been made. But researchers on the study think this could be due to the reactions being misdiagnosed as other conditions, such as eczema.

Dr Mary Wu Chang, an associate professor of dermatology and paediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, thinks this allergic reaction to the MI in baby wipes may be more common than people realise.

MI allergic reaction2 Guess what caused this horrific allergic reaction

That innocent box of wet wipes could contain dangerous chemicals that may harm your baby’s skin

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The study that revealed it all

Scientists led by Dr Mary Chang at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine studied 6 children with severe rashes. The first child was a girl who had a rash on her face and her buttocks. The 8-year old had already been treated with antibiotics and steroids but after each treatment, the rash reappeared.

The scientists suspected that she might be suffering from an allergic reaction so they asked her mother what she used to clean her. The girl’s mother explained that she used wet wipes to clean her daughter’s mouth and buttocks.

Dr Chang had recently read a report about a Belgian man who was allergic to the MI in baby wipes. So going on this hunch, she tested the child for an MI allergy and the results were positive. No surprisingly, when the girl’s mother then stopped using baby wipes, her rashes disappeared.

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During the following 2 years, 5 more children were brought to the medical centre with similar rashes. In each case, the rash disappeared as soon as the children were no longer cleaned with baby wipes.

MI allergic reaction4 Guess what caused this horrific allergic reaction

Once the use of wet wipes was stopped, the girl’s rash disappeared

MI is a preservative designed to extend shelf life, and has no useful properties for users of the products. It’s also found in many cosmetics and experts say the scale of the allergic reactions to the chemical, which has been used increasingly since 2005, is alarming.

RELATED: 10 tips for radiant skin

More on the next page, including alternatives to baby wipes.

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