One day, my toddler developed red, itchy rashes around her neck. I assumed it was just a heat rash, but the itching grew worse—and my poor daughter would fumble at her neck, clearly uncomfortable. We tried putting ointment, and hoped the rashes would resolve themselves, but she was so unhappy that we brought her to the pediatrician. We found out that she had an allergy—not to food, or to pet fur, but to the fabric softener we used on her beddings!
There are many things that can irritate our children’s skin, and after that experience I became more vigilant. Here are some things you should watch out for.
Experts say that children have more sensitive skin because they have thinner skin and undeveloped immune systems. So, don’t rule out a possible allergy trigger just because it doesn’t bother you (or an older child). I would never have thought the fabric softener was the problem because I used the same product on my preschooler’s beddings—his skin was fine, but his one-year-old sister was not. Aside from fabric softeners, also watch out for air fresheners, cleansers and carpet deodorizers. Toddlers spend a lot of time sitting on the floor, so their skin comes in contact with chemicals that may cling to the floor surfaces. (Read our article, “How safe are your cleaning products?”)
My doctor (and a lot of other skin experts) recommend using fragrance-free laundry products for washing kids’ clothes or anything that comes into contact with their skin (including stuffed toys, beddings, or fabric toys). Try organic cleansers, such as a little vinegar, instead of fabric softener. And something that is ‘unscented’ is not necessarily fragrance free, since even if they don’t use perfumes, they may contain a scent to mask the smell of other ingredients. Look for the label ‘fragrance free’ or ‘hypoallergenic.”
Products are labeled “unscented,” but fragrance still lurks. Look for labels that specify ‘fragrance-free’ or ‘hypoallergenic.’
And while your kids can certainly benefit from eating fruit, don’t expose them to fruit rinds. For example, mango rinds can cause mouth rashes, and any stains from citrus fruits like orange can irritate the skin if it is exposed to sunlight. To prevent these reactions, peel, wash and cut fruit before serving.
To find out more about allergies, read our basic guide to allergies.
Photo from ehow.com