Atopic dermatitis is very common in children who are sensitive to skin irritants. Some substances trigger an allergic reaction while others simply contain chemicals that are too harsh for delicate skin. There are many different compounds and materials that can cause problems. Metals such as nickel and gold top the list. It’s usually pretty easy to figure out what objects (such as jewelry) might contain these substances.
Other Common Irritants & Allergens
However, there are many chemicals that require a close reading of product labels to identify. For example, cocamidopropyl betaine (CABP) is a common additive to everything from shampoos to bath gels and liquid soap. It is even found in some toothpaste brands. Originally, manufacturers believed this detergent component would be very useful because it wasn’t thought to cause much skin irritation. However, by 2004 such a significant percentage of the population (7.2%) had developed sensitivity to CABP that it was named “allergen of the year”.
Formaldehyde is another chemical that is problematic for children with a tendency to develop dermatitis. This toxin is actually harmful to all humans if present in sufficient quantities. Some people are just more susceptible to even small doses. This soluble gas is used as a preservative and can be found in household cleaners, cosmetics, paints, and furniture polishes as well as many other products (including foods). Rashes from formaldehyde exposure can be uncomfortable as the skin becomes irritated and dry. Extreme skin reactions can include cracking of the skin or the development of hives.
Fragrance is one of the most ubiquitous allergens for children since it can be found in so many different products. Everything from baby diapers to sunscreen can contain scents that cause a dermatitis response. Allergy testing for Fragrance Mix 1 and Balsam of Peru can identify most fragrance related allergies. However, new fragrances are being created all the time that can cause new allergies to develop. Manufacturers of personal hygiene products are not required to list the actual chemicals used in their scented products. They may also label a product as “unscented” if a fragrance is only added to mask an unpleasant smell from one or more of the other ingredients.
Minimizing Exposure is Difficult
For parents who are struggling with creating an allergy and irritant-free environment for their child, finding “safe” products can take a lot of trial and error. This process is expensive and entails continued exposure for the child as different products are tried and discarded. Because childhood atopic dermatitis is so common, pediatric dermatologists gather a lot of information about what works and what doesn’t for keeping children rash free. A specialist can typically give parents a list of local and online sources for purchasing products that have a good track record for being free of problematic chemicals.