"Toilet seat dermatitis is one of those legendary conditions... seen in underdeveloped countries, but one that younger paediatricians have not come across in their daily practice," says Bernard Cohen, director of paediatric dermatology at Hopkins Children's. Analysing cases from the US and India, Cohen and colleagues attributed it to harsh cleaning chemicals and exotic wooden toilet seats, making a comeback as bathroom décor -- especially seats covered with varnishes and paints.
"Some of the children in our study suffered for years before the correct diagnosis was made," says lead researcher Ivan Litvinov, McGill University in Montreal, and a student of Cohen's. "If our analysis is any indication of what's happening, we need to make sure the condition is on every paediatrician's radar," adds Cohen. Cohen says children can develop irritation after several uses of a wooden seat or repeated exposure to residue from harsh cleaning chemicals. He urges paediatricians to inquire about toilet seats and cleaners used both at home and at school any time they see a toddler or a young child with skin irritation around the buttocks or upper thighs.
Researchers say most cases are fairly benign and easy to treat with topical steroids, but because many paediatricians don't suspect the cause and don't treat it properly, the inflammation can persist and spread further, causing painful and itchy skin eruptions. As a precaution, Cohen and colleagues recommend use of paper toilet seat covers in public restrooms, including hospital and school restrooms; replacing wooden toilet seats with plastic ones; cleaning toilet seats and bowls daily, among others, says a Hopkins release. These findings will appear in the February issue of Paediatrics.