Most of us are well-aware that tree nuts, dairy, soy, corn, seafood and other foods can cause serious issues to those allergic to them. However it is not so well-known that harsh, synthetic chemicals can also cause serious allergic reactions especially in children.
I found out the hard way a few years ago, when I slathered my then 2 year old’s body in a big brand chemical-based sunscreen thinking I was protecting her. The result was frightening. Her wee body swelled and turned red from head to toe. Luckily in our case no swelling of the throat occurred. The medical doctors attending to her described the situation as a ‘hyper-allergic reaction’.
However, as many parents of allergic children know, you NEVER let your guard down. You arm yourself the best way you know how and are always on guard. With allergies you can’t assume what the ‘next time’ could bring. I now live life avoiding chemicals in my daughter’s products that could be suspect in fear of a similar or worse episode.
I was happy this week when CBCHealth raised awareness of chemical allergies. Their article documented the case of an otherwise healthy 8 year old girl who had an allergic reaction to a synthetic chemical in a children’s product. The girl was having her mouth wiped constantly with baby wipes containing methylisothiazolinone (aka MI or MIT). The picture of the young girl causes me upset. Unfortunately her parents had no idea what was in the wipes and the issue synthetic chemicals can cause.
MI is a very commonly used preservative that has been on my personal ‘hotlist’ since my daughter’s episode (it was one of the chems making up the chemical stew that was her sunscreen that day). You will find this chemical on Health Canada’s Hotlist of cosmetic chemicals…a list of the nastiest chems known to be used in cosmetics in Canada. And if you research MI, you will also find medical studies linking it to neurotoxicity. All good reason for any parent to avoid methylisothiazolinone in their family’s products.
Also according to the CBC article the girl’s allergy was initially mis-diagnosed as impetigo or eczema and she was prescribed steroid creams and antibiotics. As the baby wipes were still being used, the prescription drugs did nothing to clear up her skin. Makes me wonder how many other kids may have been similarly mis-diagnosed? And how many parents are not aware of the potential issues caused to children from commonly-used synthetic chemicals? How many parents think their child’s eczema-like symptoms may be an inherent skin condition as this girl’s family did?
Once I my guard down. My husband took my daughter to a classmate’s birthday party when she was in kindergarten. It was being held in the family’s backyard. Being mid-June, the mom hosting the party opted to slather the child-guests upon arrival in big-brand sunscreen (full of the same chemicals that caused our family grief a few years before). I never considered someone else would put product on my child’s body. As my husband ran to the car to retrieve our zinc-based sunscreen, the hostess was insisting not to bother as she had enough for all. In my perfect world all parents would be aware that products other than food can cause serious allergic reaction.
I understand navigating chemicals is not everyone’s cup of tea. Fortunately, I have the advantage of having studied environmental chemistry at university. Since my daughter’s allergic reaction I have delved deeper into researching everyday household chemicals, all health issues they are linked to as well as alternative products which do not contain controversial chemicals. And I now love to talk chemicals to interested parents in hopes of helping out. So feel free to ask!