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"Poop" dermatitis on the rise

The P.R. office that sent out a release containing the term "poop' dermatitis" in the headline sure knew how to catch my attention. I suppose I do have a penchant for writing about, er, the process of elimination.

The release announced the publication in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics of research conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine showing that toilet-seat dermatitis may be on the rise among children. It said pediatricians should be on the lookout for its symptoms.

Apparently toilet-seat dermatitis -- an itchy rash covering the buttocks and the backs of the upper thighs -- was once fairly common, but the medical community thought the condition had been largely vanquished, at least among children, with the increased use of plastic toilet seats. Though it appears with some frequency among adults, lead author Bernard Cohen of the Johns Hopkins Children's Center notes that it has become so uncommon among kids that pediatricians seldom recognize it. (Another study published in 2005 reported on a single case and noted it could signal a more widespread problem.)

Cohen attributes the seeming resurgence of this rash to the recent fashion for toilet seats made of exotic woods and to the use of harsh commercial cleansers in homes and in public places such as schools.

The study cites five cases (two in the U.S., three in India) in which toilet-seat dermatitis was misdiagnosed, leaving the uncomfortable situation to linger as kids were treated for other ailments -- including, in two of the Indian cases, nonexistent ringworm. Kids who tried to improve their lot by scrubbing vigorously with soap just made things worse. Two of the kids' dermatitis got so bad that bacterial infections set in.

Once doctors figured out what was wrong in each of these cases, the rash was quickly and easily eliminated through the use of topical steroids, application of petroleum jelly to the affected skin, replacement of wooden toilet seats with plastic ones at home and use of disposable, paper toilet-seat covers in public restrooms. In several cases, the revealing clue was that the rash went away during the summer, when the child was away from the offending school toilet. And in one touching instance, an Indian child also was asked to abandon the habit of doing homework while sitting on the john for hours.

So what sounded kind of cheeky at first turns out to be a pretty serious situation. The implication is that these five cases are likely just the tip of a potentially big iceberg. So, fellow parents, if your kid has a telltale rash on his or her backside, you might want to ask your pediatrician whether it might be "poop" dermatitis.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  January 25, 2010; 12:01 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , General Health  
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"Kids who tried to improve their lot by scrubbing vigorously with soap just made things worse. Two of the kids' dermatitis got so bad that bacterial infections set in."

I have long tended to use very harsh antibacterial soaps for showers and hand-washing, and my skin really has suffered because of it. I have been shifting to moisturizing soaps and shorter showers in an effort to heal my dry, flaky, itchy skin.

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Posted by: jimpurdy | January 25, 2010 3:53 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if a higher-fiber diet is in order.
If you do your business promptly you'll spend less time in contact with cleaners.

Posted by: RedBird27 | January 25, 2010 7:04 AM | Report abuse

"cheeky". Heh.

Posted by: tomtildrum | January 25, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

It depends how you wipe and if you use a good moisturizer.

I'll send in a detailed video to WAPO for their review and they might want to post it. This is a serious issue of hindsight.

Posted by: dlkimura | January 25, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

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