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Is the Use of Wet Wipes Adding to the Risk of Allergies in Children?

 width= We have written about the dangers of wet wipes when they are flushed down the toilet and end up causing blockages in pipes and plumbing - but now there is a new reason to avoid these modern conveniences.

What is this new reason?

Wet wipes could be putting babies and young children at risk of allergic reactions. This is because their use could create a breach or break in the skin's natural protective coat, making it more sensitive to chemicals.

What has research found?

In a recent USA study, researchers claimed a major advance in their allergy understanding after showing that such allergies could develop following repeated skin contact in an area where soaps have stripped away natural oils. The researchers tell us that, if wet wipe residues are not rinsed off, babies and young children are more likely to absorb allergy-causing chemicals when their skin is in contact with them. Those children, who already have a genetic or other predisposition for developing allergies that are also linked with conditions such as eczema, are particularly at risk. The use of wet wipes could be one of the reasons why allergy rates have increased by 20% in the USA and elsewhere in the past twenty years. The study's leading researcher, Joan Cook -Mills (Professor of Allergy Immunology at Northwestern University) says: "This is a major advance in our understanding of how a food allergy starts early in life."

Is it time to ditch the wet wipes?

The Professor is saying that parents should go back to the original ways of washing babies and young children with a washcloth and warm water. She advises reducing their baby's skin exposure to the food allergens by washing hands before handling the baby and limiting the use of those baby wet wipes that leave soap on the skin.

Other risks with baby wet wipes

  • Conventional wipes contain a variety of ingredients that many will prefer not to use on sensitive skin. These include parabens, phthalates (fragrance), PEGs, propylene glycol, phenoxyethanol and others. In addition, the actual manufacturing process for wet wipes are a cause for contamination concerns while the chlorine process of creating the wet wipes is hard both on the environment and landfills.
  • Wet wipes are certainly not edible and of course a baby's natural instinct is to grab a wipe and put it in their mouth, presenting a choking hazard as well as a chemical risk because the ingredients are not meant for internal use. Always keep any baby wipes out of reach.

There are alternatives

  • You can switch to more environmentally-friendly brands. Natural wipes are made with renewable materials such as bamboo which are compostable. Such brands do not contain chemicals, making them safer for your child's skin.
  • Reusable cloth wipes do allow you to have control of what materials are in contact with your baby's skin and are easy to wash and dry. One idea is to mix a solution of one part natural baby shampoo to three parts water and store in a spray bottle. Moisten the cloth wipe with the spray when ready to use.
  • An old fashioned washcloth and soap will give your baby a thorough clean.
  • Place your changing station near a faucet in the bathroom so your baby can be rinsed off with warm water. This is ideal if you baby has sensitive skin or eczema as no rubbing is necessary.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is also known as dermatitis. It is a condition which causes inflammation and dry itchy skin. Some types of eczema will cause skin to become red - and weep or blister. Eczema is most common on the face and back of the knees, wrists, hands or feet. The skin becomes thickened and rough and is almost always accompanied by itching.    width=