Toilet seat rash warning issued

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Bernard Cohen, M.D., a researcher at Johns Hopkins has issued a warning following a small research study – toilet seat rash, aka “toilet seat contact dermatitis” may be making a comeback. The reason the alert was issued is because contact dermatitis from toilet seats had virtually disappeared, but now there is some evidence it may be re-emerging.


Dr. Cohen explains "Toilet seat dermatitis is one of those legendary conditions described in medical textbooks and seen in underdeveloped countries, but one that younger pediatricians have not come across in their daily practice." Cohen is director of pediatric dermatology at Hopkins Children's. "If our small analysis is any indication of what's happening, we need to make sure the condition is on every pediatrician's radar." Consider the fact that some children in the study suffered for years with an itchy rash on their bottoms before being diagnosed.

Contact dermatitis happens when harsh chemicals come in contact with the skin – as seems to the case for the resurgence of toilet seat contact dermatitis found in the study of five children in the US and India. The skin becomes red, can blister, and it gets worse over time with repeated exposure to the allergen. The condition can even become painful and become a set up for bacterial infection that may not be so easily treated. Usually topical steroid ointment can calm the rash, but without treating the underlying cause toilet seat rash will keep coming back.


Dr. Cohen says wooden toilet seats and the harsh chemicals used to clean them could be the cause of a child’s rash on the buttocks and upper thighs, and he urges pediatricians to question parents about toilet seats and types of cleaners used at home and at school.

To avoid the nuisance of toilet seat dermatitis the researchers recommend covering toilet seats before use when in public restrooms, replacing wooden toilet seats with plastic and using rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide for cleaning instead of harsh commercial chemicals that can cause allergy. Some store bought cleaners contain phenol or formaldehyde that can be harsh on the skin, as well as toxic and could create a perpetual case of toilet seat contact dermatitis.

PEDIATRICS (doi:10.1542/peds.2009-2430