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Dr. Max Gomez: Popular Baby Wipes May Cause Nasty Rash

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- Something in popular baby and personal hygiene wipes has been causing painful, itchy rashes and blisters.

As CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez reported, no one knows the exact extent of the problem because most people and even many doctors have not connected the rash to use of the wipes and it can take many exposures over the years to develop the allergy.

Given the popularity of the wipes, sufferers could be in the millions.

As a result of a painful allergic reaction Julie Omiatek only uses water to clean her kids. Without warning, Julie started getting rashes and blisters on her hands. For a year she kept a journal of everything that she ate and touched but she still couldn't find a cause.

"The rash was driving me crazy and it was sometimes showing up on my face too. I said, ok, I should probably go ahead and go to this contact dermatitis clinic," she said.

The clinic is run by Dr. Matthew Zirwas through the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Nationally, Dr. Zirwas is known as a dermatologist detective. He determined that Omiatek's baby wipes were ravaging her hands.

"She is lucky that we found it before it turned into something that was going on for years and was spreading to other areas," Zirwas said.

Those "other areas" are where doctors have seen the biggest problems. It turns out that some adult toilet wipes share the same preservative as baby wipes, one that is very common and increasingly controversial.

"This is a chemical called methylisothiazolinone, and we use MI for short," Dr. Zirwas explained.

The level of MI in some products has increased twenty-five times over the last few years, Dr. Zirwas said. It can be found in everything from liquid soap to shampoo, but those products are rinsed off by the user.

Dr. Zirwas recommended testing any wipes containing MI before using them.

"They can take the wipe and rub it on the inside of their arm right where their elbow is, twice a day for about a week. If they are allergic to the wipe they should start to get a reaction there within a week," Dr. Zirwas explained.

Companies that make wipes with MI are aware of the problem and are looking for alternatives.

If you do have a suspicious rash stop using the wipes for at least a month, it can take that long for the rash to clear up. If the rash still doesn't go away it's time to see a doctor.

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