Toilet Seat Dermatitis Making a Comeback
Harsh Cleaners and Wooden Seats Behind Rise in Toilet Seat Irritation
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 25, 2010 -- Exotic wooden toilet seats and harsh chemical cleaners may
be behind a new resurgence of toilet seat dermatitis, a skin condition once
thought to be wiped out in the U.S.
A new study documents five recent cases of toilet seat dermatitis in
children, some of whom suffered for years before getting a proper
“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,” researcher Bernard
Cohen, MD, director of pediatric dermatology at Johns Hopkins Children’s
Center, says in a news release. “If our small analysis is any indication of
what’s happening, we need to make sure the condition is on every pediatrician’s
Toilet Seat Trouble
Toilet seat dermatitis causes skin irritation around the buttocks and upper
thighs. If it isn’t treated properly, researchers say discomfort can persist
and lead to painful and itchy skin eruptions.
The condition was first described in 1927. At that time, exposure to wooden
toilet seats and the associated varnish, lacquers, and paints were to blame for
the skin irritation.
In the 1980s and 1990s, most public facilities and homeowners switched from
wooden to plastic toilet seats and sanitary seat covers became readily
available, which researchers say prompted a dramatic decline in the
But recently, some homeowners have opted for toilet seats made from exotic
woods, and there has been an increased use of harsh toilet seat detergents.
In two of the cases described in the study, the children's toilet seat
dermatitis had been caused by their school’s use of harsh chemical cleaners,
containing ingredients such as didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride and alkyl
dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride, which have previously been documented to
cause severe skin irritation.
To prevent toilet seat dermatitis, researchers recommend the following
- Use toilet seat covers in public restrooms, including hospital and school
bathrooms. Such covers are widely available in major retail stores. The
researchers add that allergy to toilet seat covers has not been reported in the
- Replace wooden toilet seats with plastic ones.
- Avoid harsh cleaners.