From the Journals

Consider toys as culprits in children with contact allergies



A variety of toys and other play products can cause contact dermatitis in children because of the nature of their ingredients, according to the results of a review of 25 published articles.

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“In recent years the products have become a reflection of the compounds used frequently in manufacturing, including metals and plastic compounds,” wrote Justine Fenner, MD, and coauthors, from the departments of dermatology and pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York,

In a study published in Contact Dermatitis, the researchers identified 25 articles describing dermatitis, rash, or eczema associated with a range of toy and play product terms including Nintendo, PlayStation, putty, glue, doll, game, car, bicycle, slime, iPad, and iPhone.

Overall, nickel was the most common allergen. Cases of nickel dermatitis were associated with laptops, videogame controllers, iPads, and cell phones. Cell phones were the most common electronics associated with contact dermatitis, which was observed on the cheek, periauricular area, and hand, as well as the breast in one case of a patient who kept her phone in her bra.

Other sources of metal allergens were identified in toy cars and costume jewelry, the researchers noted.

In addition, temporary tattoos have been associated with contact dermatitis in children, as have homemade “slime” products, which often contain not only borax or other household detergents, but also glue, shaving cream, or coloring.

However, identification of true allergic contact dermatitis from toys “requires both identification of the chemical contents of toys, which are proprietary in nature, and then epicutaneous allergy testing of these ingredients,” the researchers said.

The study findings were limited by several factors including the consideration only of English-language articles and of cases in children, which thus eliminates other potential cases, the researchers noted. However, the results suggest that dermatologists consider toys as a source of contact dermatitis in children, especially if the time to diagnosis is months to years, they said. “Additionally, it may be useful, as it was in several of the above cases, to have the patient bring in his or her favorite toys for the dermatologist to examine and help further understand the etiology of patient’s rash,” they noted. Moreover, “there is an unmet need for corporations to reveal the chemical ingredients of their toys when allergic contact dermatitis is suspected in order to properly evaluate the patient,” they added.

“Contact dermatitis has been underreported in children and constitutes an ongoing concern,” senior author Nanette Silverberg, MD, chief of pediatric dermatology for the Mount Sinai Health System, said in an interview.

“In particular, toy-related allergy is concerning due to the rise in allergen inclusion in common play items,” she commented. The current analysis identified many case reports of allergens that pediatric dermatologists are frequently seeing in their offices, notably metals such as nickel, she pointed out. “The allergen that always stands out ahead of others is nickel,” Dr. Silverberg said. “Nickel allergy affects about 25% of Americans, often starting in early childhood,” she said. “In the European Union, legislation has been passed to reduce nickel release from metals, which has resulted in less sensitization to nickel. We lack such legislation in the United States,” she added.

Other trending allergens include methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylisothiazolinone, which may be components of glue or other ingredients in some “slime” products, Dr. Silverberg said.

She advised clinicians to consider patch testing when addressing localized or persistent dermatitis in children. “Furthermore, consider toys as potential relevant allergens that should be modified in order to achieve skin improvement,” she said.

“Greater reporting of pediatric allergic contact dermatitis is needed,” Dr. Silverberg emphasized. “Additionally, surveillance and monitoring for trends in allergen exposures in toys and personal care items is required to analyze this ongoing concern of childhood,” she said.

The study received no outside funding. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.

SOURCE: Fenner J et al. Contact Dermatitis. 2020 Feb 22. doi: 10.1111/cod.13500.

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