Dermatologists working in South Australia’s hospitals have seen an increase in allergic dermatitis cases as a result of reactions to a preservative found in some wet wipes. National figures show that so far this year, 15 per cent of Australians patch tested for allergic reactions have reacted to Methylisothiazolinone (MI), the preservative found in many wet wipes including baby wipes. This is up from around four per cent in 2005.
Minister for Health Jack Snelling said increased cases of dermatitis are being seen locally and he is urging members of the public to be aware that some people using the wipes may have a
reaction to MI.
“Allergic reactions to MI, such as hand dermatitis, are being found in people using wet wipes such as mothers and babies who are frequently in contact with baby wipes,” Mr Snelling said.
“If people are experiencing a reaction such as a rash or itchiness I would encourage them to see a dermatologist, and if it is found that they are allergic to MI, to thoroughly check labelling before purchasing products.”
Head of Dermatology at Flinders Medical Centre Dr Lynne Gordon said she had seen severe cases of dermatitis caused by ‘wet wipe’ products.
“Allergic dermatitis is a common skin condition which causes an itchy and weeping rash localised to the area in contact with the allergic trigger,” Dr Gordon said.
“It usually develops two or more days after contact with the allergen and lasts as long as contact continues and for a short time afterwards, typically one to two weeks.
“I have seen a number of cases where people in the busyness of their day, use the wipes on their hands and faces and break out in a rash.
“We have also seen cases of elderly people who may use the wipes for personal hygiene.
“If anyone is concerned about the impact of certain products on their skin they should speak to a dermatologist.”
Danae Belfield, 26, of Somerton Park presented to the Emergency Department at Flinders Medical Centre numerous times follow ing severe reactions to MI, most recently after using wetwipes.“I have had a severe and ongoing reaction to a number of products which contain MI,” Ms Belfield said.
“Over the past 14 months, I have suffered with a red, itchy, painful rash over most of my body,which was compounded when I was hospitalised three weeks ago after using wet wipes on my face and neck.
“A patch test helped to determine my reaction was to the MI and I have since stopped using all products that contain the preservative, which has dramatically changed my life.
“I am now vigilant in checking the labels of products I use, including wet wipes, shampoo and other body products, to make sure they do not contain MI.”
Dermatologists have also reported treating patients who have been exposed to MI in industrial materials such as paint and wallpaper glue.