By Kevin Whitelaw
No, toilet seats are not out to get your children.
But Dr. Bernard Cohen did think it was strange that, once every month or two, parents were bringing in children with distinctive half-moon shaped rashes on their rear ends.
As the director of pediatric dermatology at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, Cohen quickly realized he was witnessing a resurgence of toilet seat dermatitis.
"We call it on 'poop-on-the-toilet-seat dermatitis,' because you have to have a sense of humor about this," he tells Shots in an interview.
In a new study in the journal Pediatrics, Cohen documents five cases of toilet seat dermatitis, although he has treated a number of other children for the condition, which is a skin irritation around the buttocks and upper thighs.
In a few of the cases he examined, the dermatitis was caused by an allergy to harsh chemical cleaners used on public or school toilets. Cohen says that exotic woods used in some new residential toilet seats might also provoke the irritation.
"People don't recognize the pattern and don't think of it," Cohen says. "These kids will go on for months, sometimes years before the correct diagnosis, and a simple treatment will make it go away."
The condition used to be more common decades ago, when more toilet seats were made of wood and treated with harsh chemicals. The advent of plastic toilet seats helped minimize the condition.
Prevention is simple. Doctors suggest that children use toilet seat covers in public restrooms, and that parents swap wooden toilet seats for plastic ones at home and avoid using harsh cleaners.
Cohen says that based on the numbers of cases of toilet seat dermatitis he has treated, it is probably more common than many doctors realize. "These are kids that came to us because their parents had tried everything else," he says.
Still Cohen doesn't blame them for missing the diagnosis, saying that he certainly doesn't remember toilet seat dermatitis from his childhood.
"It wasn't a problem for us, maybe because nobody used the toilets at school," he says. "They just held it until they got home."