Substances Causing Atopic Dermatitis In Children

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Atopic dermatitis (an eczema condition) can occur at any age; but is most common in children. This type of skin rash is often triggered by exposure to substances that cause irritation and/or allergic reactions. Children with sensitive skin may experience prolonged episodes of eczema when they come into contact with ingredients that are even mildly irritating. Treating the symptoms is one way to provide relief, but preventing recurrence requires taking a close look at the child’s environment.

Eliminating allergens and irritants usually involves some trial and error. Allergy testing may be helpful in pinpointing substances that are actually causing an inflammatory histamine response by the immune system. However, non-allergic reactions to chemicals are often also involved in the development of this skin rash.

What Products Cause These Reactions?

Dermatologists can generally provide a list of some of the most common culprits for atopic dermatitis symptoms in children. Nickel sulfate, gold, formaldehyde, neomycin, and lanolin are among the top 10 skin allergens for kids. Such a list can be a helpful tool for parents who want to begin eliminating potential triggers from their child’s environment. Inspecting all household and hygiene products that the child is exposed to is the first step in eliminating problem products. Parents should review the ingredient labels on items such as:

• Soaps, body washes, shampoo, toothpaste
• Deodorant, lotion, creams, ointments
• Cosmetics, perfumes, hair styling products
• Laundry detergent, dryer sheets
• Household cleaning solutions, plug in fragrance dispersing devices
• Diapers or “pull-ups”, baby wipes


Another item in the top 10 list for common allergens and irritants is “fragrance”. This term can cover a huge number of ingredients. Manufacturers are not required to disclose the actual synthetic or plant-derived chemicals used to create a scent. This makes it impossible for parents to identify in advance what products may cause an atopic dermatitis reaction in their child. To be on the safe side, it often makes sense to stop using products that contain fragrance. This includes products that are scented with essential oils. Even “natural” and “organic” fragrances can easily cause allergic reactions when applied to sensitive skin.

Unfortunately, the term “unscented” does not indicate that a product contains no fragrances. Manufacturers are permitted to use the “unscented” label if a fragrance is added for the purpose of masking an unpleasant odor caused by another product ingredient. Products labeled as fragrance-free are more likely to be actually unscented, although this is not 100% guaranteed. A dermatologist can generally recommend brands from manufacturers who have a good track record for providing products that are safe for pediatric patients with a history of eczema.

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