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Wooden Toilet Seats Can Trigger Children's Rash

Harsh disinfectants can also prompt seat-linked skin woes, experts warn

MONDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Harsh cleaning chemicals and wooden toilet seats -- especially those with varnishes and paints -- may be among the reasons why U.S. cases of toilet seat-related skin irritations among children appear to be increasing, researchers say.

Children can develop toilet seat dermatitis after repeated exposure to residue from harsh cleaning chemicals or after several uses of a wooden seat, said Dr. Bernard Cohen, director of pediatric dermatology at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, and colleagues.

The researchers analyzed five cases of toilet seat dermatitis among children in India and the United States, and report their findings in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics.

"Toilet seat dermatitis is one of those legendary conditions described in medical textbooks and seen in underdeveloped countries, but one that younger pediatricians have not come across in their daily practice," Cohen said in a Johns Hopkins news release. "If our small analysis is any indication of what's happening, we need to make sure the condition is on every pediatrician's radar."

The study found that missed and delayed diagnoses occurred in every case before a doctor made the correct diagnosis.

Any time a pediatrician sees a child with skin irritation around the buttocks or upper thighs, they should ask about toilet seats and cleansers used at home and at school, Cohen said.

Most cases of toilet seat dermatitis are mild and easy to treat with topical steroids. However, if not treated properly, the inflammation can persist and spread, causing painful and itchy skin eruptions and unnecessary discomfort for children and parents. Skin that's persistently irritated is vulnerable to bacteria and may lead to more serious infections that require treatment with oral antibiotics.

Cohen and his colleagues offered tips on how to prevent toilet seat dermatitis:

  • Use paper toilet seat covers in public restrooms.
  • Replace wooden toilet seats with plastic ones.
  • Clean toilet seats and bowls daily.
  • Don't use harsh cleansers, which often contain skin-irritating chemicals. Instead, use rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, which is effective and gentler on the skin.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about contact dermatitis.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Children's Center, news release, Jan. 25, 2010

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