Toilet Seat Dermatitis is on the Rise

Catching a disease from a toilet seat is just an urban myth, right? Most of us are careful in public restrooms anyway, using seat liners whenever possible or avoiding ones that don't seem clean. But a new study shows that our backsides may be at risk for developing a painful skin irritation--and the culprit is much closer to home.

Until recently, Toilet Seat Dermatitis was virtually unheard of outside 3rd world countries. But in the past few years, the number of cases in pediatricians' office has risen sharply, according to a Johns Hopkins Children's Center research study that published in the journal Pediatrics. The study examined a variety of cases in the U.S. and India and determined this dermatitis does not stem from dirty public toilets. Trendy wooden toilet seats and the harsh chemical cleaners we now use at home are to blame. The residue from the chemicals gets trapped in the seat and repeated exposure to kids' sensitive skin causes them to develop Irritant Contact Dermatitis.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, Irritant Contact Dermatitis manifests itself in different ways. It may look like a chemical burn or simply scaly skin. The extremity of the reaction varies depending on skin sensitivity and the intensity of exposure. The condition is simple to treat with topical steroids, but because it's so rare pediatricians often don't know what it is or how to treat it.

According to the study, some children suffered this painful condition for years before it was correctly diagnosed. One of the main goals of the study was to get the word out so that doctors could more easily recognize and treat the condition.
The best way for you to reduce the risk of Toilet Seat Dermatitis in your home is to choose plastic, not wooden toilet seats. Wash these daily, but steer clear of harsh cleaners that contain formaldehyde or phenol. Opt for a gentler, natural product or simply wipe the seat with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. These will be gentler for the whole family.


John Hopkins Children's Center

Abstract of "Recognizing and Treating Toilet-Seat Contact Dermatitis in Children" from Pediatrics Magazine

American Academy of Dermatology