Friday, June 01, 2007

The Rash Revisited: Car Seat Suspect #1

I've decided that Cricket does not have eczema, an autoimmune disorder, MRSA, poison ivy, impetigo, HSV, or chicken pox, which were all theories about what was happening to him. I've decided he's "allergic" to his car seat.

The very device I researched the most, that I thought of as the most essential safety requirement we'd have for him has ended up being the culprit. Or jackass.

It's impossible for me to relate how guilty Partner and I feel about putting him over and over into the car seat, and now knowing that it was that which was causing the burning rash and blisters.

How did we figure out it was the car seat? Well, it started with Brother K, who called with his speculation that perhaps the seat was treated with flame retardant, and maybe, just maybe, Cricket was having a reaction to it? Sounded plausible, we thought. Since the rash had started on the back of his head, we started putting a burp cloth behind his head, mostly because we thought the fabric of the car seat might irritate the rash. We hadn't though previous to Brother K's suggestions that the seat was the cause.

Yet last week when we had him in the car seat in shorts, the rash bloomed again on the outside of both legs, interestingly enough where his legs were touching the seat. Other places the rash has appeared: the elbow on one side only, the side that he prefers to lean to, along with the cheek on that side, and the back of his hand. Never, not once, has this rash appeared on any part of his body that wasn't touching the seat. He's never had it on his shoulders, trunk, upper thighs. And the rash only appeared on other parts other than his head only after we were in South Carolina, where it was even warmer and he wore shorts and short sleeve shirts for the first time while in the car seat.

Here's what I read: some car seats are treated with bromine, chlorine, and even lead. Often these materials break down in the heat causing, for some babies, serious problems. Among the lead offenders is the Graco SafeSeat (for boosters, but I'm clearly suspicious of the infant seat too.) One of the materials used to treat car seats to make then flame retardant is decabrominated diphenyl ether. This has been linked neurological defects, cancer, low sperm counts, permanent learning and memory impairment, and in some cases, even cancer. I'm beginning to think we got off lucky with a rash.

The people have tested and ranked the car seats according to who is the worst offender and whose seats are better. (Read the report here.) I've called Graco to get try and get the low-down on what was on Cricket's car seat. Two trips to the ER, numerous doctor appointments and finally seeing the chair of the dermatology department at fancy-schmancy university hospital-- *sigh*-- all caused by his car seat.

The whole thing makes me sick. We wash all the Cricket's clothes with Dreft. I think about what I eat all the time since it will pass to him via breast milk. We research almost every damn thing that comes into contact with our little man. I wake up at night and put my hand on his chest to be sure he's still breathing. We love him so much and to think we inadvertently caused his rash is making us feel sick. This is actually a very mild picture of what his head looked like. At first it was much more widespread, with pustules that oozed like a bad blistering burn.

The leg here is not as bad as it got either. It actually felt hot to the touch. The thing is, I think back to the La Leche meeting where I accosted the dermatology resident who say Cricket's head when it looked particularly bad. Her words keep echoing, "That doesn't look like eczema to me." Yeah, me neither, sister.
So I'm in the market for a good car seat cover made from 100% cotton and completely untreated. We're now using a cut up tee shirt, which is protecting the kids skin, but a pain in the ass to get him situated correctly
I'm mad as a hornet about the whole thing. As soon as I find out more, I'll let you know what I hear.

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Blogger Shinny said...

Take the cover off, trace it, mark where any holes or snaps are and send it to me. I will try to make a new one with flannel or else cotton for you. Otherwise, have you tried just taking off and washing it in Dreft? I know they are a PITA to take off and put back on but it would be worth it for his poor skin.

But if you want me to try sewing something feel free to email me at shinnylatexcitedotcom and I will give you my address. Newspaper would probably be big enough to trace the whole thing on. Let me know if you prefer a certain type of fabric, cotton or flannel and a color.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Eliza said...

Well, yay that it's not any of those god-awful things that everyone suspected, but BOO on those carseat people for using such toxic chemicals on something that is designed to come into contact with BABIES. Poor Cricket! And great big pats on the back to Brother K, who will unfortunately most likely be downright insufferable now :-) Don't beat yourselves up--you had no way of knowing, and we as consumers generally place a certain amount of (perhaps unwarranted) trust in the makers of baby products that they won't put out anything even potentially harmful. I know what that guilt is like--remember when my kid had the NG tube, and I had to put it in MYSELF (which you know is NOT pleasant)? I once changed the tube, took the baby to the neighbor's house for Bible study, took the baby out of the seat, and...neglected to notice that the dang tube was tangled in the carseat straps. So out it came, ripping the tape off of the baby's already-inflamed cheek in the process. And back in I had to shove it, crying bitter, bitter tears. These things happen. You're wonderful mothers.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Clementine said...

Oh NO--that's terrible. I'm so sorry that Cricket's allergic to his car seat, but I'm so glad y'all figured it out. Your poor little baby! And his poor mamas, too, for worrying so much and feeling so guilty.

You know what, though? You didn't do anything wrong. In fact, you're doing everything right.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous vee said...

They're right, don't give yourselves a guily trip. It's not exactly an obvious thing. Just thank goodness you've identified the culprit and can deal with it. I'm so glad it wasn't any of those seriously scary possibilities. Poor little man looks so sore, bless him. Pretty outrageous that the cover those seats in crap like that!!

1:43 PM  
Anonymous j said...

So not your fault, at all. Great moms, for serious. Good sleuthing.

I'll be interested to know what Graco says.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Jenn said...

Holy crap! Don't beat yourself up over this (I know, easier said than done). I mean, how could you have known? I've never heard about this until now. Thanks for getting the word out. I'm just sorry Cricket had to be the messenger. I hope you'll let us know what Graco says.

2:53 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

you know, someone had just sent me the link to those healthy car people, and I toltally wrote it off as another thing that people get all paranoid about for no reason. Shows you what I know about carseat health.

Which is to say: you are really doing a service here by spreading the word that these issues are serious and should be taken seriously, by parents and us all. That DOES NOT make up for the fact of poor cricket getting a rash. But it's good to help other babies avoid the same problem.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a suggestion from a stranger, but there are several sellers on Ebay that will sew a custom car seat cover with your or their fabric.

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Heather said...

It's official... I am terrified of every thing! Don't beat yourself up! I never had any idea that a car seat contained chemicals that coul dbreak down and create problems! I research every thing and I never came across anything like this! We just bought a Graco ComfortSport because the consumer ratings were among the best and now I am freaking out, too! Please let me know what Graco has to say...

And seriously, don't beat yourselves up. I can't tell you how many parents probably would still be oblivious to the rash or think it was something like ezcema or a heat rash. You're stellar and outstanding!

3:33 PM  
Blogger Suz said...

Seeing those pictures of poor Cricket's little legs outraged me too. I hope that the care seat company will address this...immediately!

9:58 PM  
Blogger agoodlistener said...

Wow-I never heard of such a thing. Poor baby! I'm glad you figured it out, but what a terrible thing for Cricket. He's lucky to have such a smart mommy.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Brooke said...

You won't find an untreated cotton cover. All carseat covers have to be flame resistant per the federal government. Britax does make cotton covers for the Marathon.

I'd wash his seat cover, but I'd skip the Dreft. Dreft is nothing more than a marketing ploy. I'm also suspicious of the healthycar people because their results aren't consistent. Color me cynical.

You'll need a convertible seat soon-ish (you could likely keep him in the safeseat another year), so it wouldn't hurt to try the cotton Marathon cover (although they are pricey-er). Sanna has one and she tends to sweat less in it.

12:13 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Aha..I had said that it was a chemical reaction.. but where it came from was a

I agree about washing the cover - yes a major PITA, but well worth it especially in the meantime until you can find a cover for it.

When you purchase your convertible seat/forward facing, do the same rather than stressing about the fabrics/treatments - unfortunately, safety outweighs the minor pains like washing.

I also agree about the marketing ploys of Ivory Snow and Dreft etc.. we have used a "Free" detergent (free of dyes, scent and other chemicals)since our NICU days and I use it for my stuff too and it has been fine.

Don't beat yourself up Katie, we all do what we have to do as parents and there are no manuals..

2:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could check out for a car seat cover.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

I just wanted to let you know that the exact same thing happened to our daughter, River. We realized it was the car seat when she got a rash on her head where it was resting against the car seat. We took the cover off and washed it thinking that might solve the problem, but it didn't. This weekend, we drove to a nearby friend's house and the almost healed rash broke out again, just as angry as before.

Just be warned that washing may not fix it... or you may want to do multiple washes before you put it back on.

Know that you aren't the only parent dealing with this. We felt awful, too, when we realized we'd subjected her to a TEN HOUR CAR RIDE in that horrendous seat. No wonder she was inconsolable until we put cotton cloths around the parts that were rubbing on her skin.

I hope you find a good solution.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Christy said...

Thank you so much for posting this, our son has had a rash on his legs and its only since we put him facing forward his britax marathon platinum carseat. I never thought it was the cover, on it was the worst rated....I feel horrible. I'm ordering a new cover today!!
Thank you again.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Christy said...

I called Britax this morning and they are sending me a new cover at no cost to me. I'm so glad because the covers are a little spendy ($60). Thanks again, I don't think that I would have thought to think the car seat cover was making my child sick.

11:39 AM  
Anonymous rash victim's mommy said...

I found your blog while looking for information about my own little guy's inexplicable rash. We have the exact same car seat that you wrote about. I was able to purchase a cotton Eddie Bauer seat cover at a local discount store (ShopKo). I washed it in regular detergent, fabric softener...everything it says not to do so as to reduce fire retardant. After a scant week, peanut's rash is VASTLY improved!

I am VERY curious about the response you were given by Graco. I have actually posted a formal letter to the company as I feel it is wise to keep a paper trail.

I would love to chat with you sometime about Cricket's improvement and Graco's solution to this obviously terrible problem!!

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came across this blog in my search for other moms who experienced rash problems with their child's car seat. My daughter had a terrible rash for 10 MONTHS!! before I figured it out. She had a Graco Snugride in Lotus. I contacted the company who collected the car seat for "testing," and sent me a check for the cost of the seat (the tests came out negative for any excess chemicals). They're also willing to reimburse me for the medical/drug costs. They sent me a list of the chemical treatment of the seat, which includes brominated flame retardants. But I want more. I want change. Graco's insurance carrier claims that they sell tens of thousands of car seats per year and do not have any problems. Well, I'd like to show them that they do cause problems. Aside from the research I'm conducting to find studies on the long-term effects of BFRs, I'd like to band together with any other families who have experienced the acute effects of these chemicals to show Graco that it's time for a change. After Graco picked up the carseat, I bought a Britax Boulevard in Sutton, and asked them to send me a chemical list, as well. When I got the list, I saw that because the fabric is inherently flame retardant, there is no topical treatment. Ha. It seems it could be done after all. My little muffin had no problems with the new carseat. Let me know if you're interested in joining forces:

12:32 AM  
Blogger Avies world said...

Hi there... I just read your post about the rash from hell... so glad I found it too! Our 3 month old also has a gross oozy rash that shows up after trips in the car seat. I went online to find out if other parents experience similar problems. We are ordering a natural cover which I hope helps... if not, perhaps we'll have to do some more investigating.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Tricia said...

Wow! Thank you so much for posting this topic. My son is now 7 months old and for the past 3 months, he's had times where his lower cheeks have had horrible rashy outbreaks - complete with ooze (exactly where his cheeks rest on the shoulder harness pads). Went to the dr. he treated him with antibiotic cream. 2 weeks later, went back again, this time they gave me a fancy diaper rash cream. 2 weeks later again, this time we got cortizone. Then the dr. said to treat the rash with all 3 creams. Rash gets better for a while but never completely goes away. And now that it's hot and he's wearing shorts for the first time, the rash is all over the lower legs and lower arms. And now it makes sense why he has a dry red spot on the back of his head. Damn. I wish I connected the rash with the carseat earlier. I wish my dr. had also made the connection. I could have spared my poor baby all that irritation! We have a Graco Snugride - Metropolitan cover. I plan to send in a complaint to them.

4:11 PM  
Blogger jenbiundo said...

Wow, I'm realizing I'm not the only one who went through this. We recently realized my five month old is allergic to his car seat, a Chicco Keyfit. He had a huge raw circle on the back of his head with oozy scabs, and the rash also popped up on the back of his legs, his elbows and his cheeks, where he rubbed against the seat belt cover. It was red with a yellow tint, very oozy, but it would also get scaly. It cleared up within a week of putting a liner in the car seat.
I didn't even realize it that car seat dermatitis existed, but it's sounding like it's pretty common.
Here's a link to another discussion:

11:14 PM  
Blogger cat said...

Katie, you have seriously solved a big mystery for me. Same deal as most of the commenters: oozy rash on the back of the head, rash on elbows and backs of legs, all of which get worse with extended contact with his carseat (a Chicco Keyfit). and never the slightest rash on any part of him that doesn't come in contact with his car seat.

thank you, thank you, thank you! i'm going home today and rigging up some sort of cover for it.

12:01 PM  
Blogger maisy's mom said...

I am so happy I found all of you! I thought I was a crazy first time mom. My baby girl kept getting nasty, red, oozy rashes that I couldn't explain. After many trips to the doctors and many medications, it dawned on me that it was her chicco car seat. I was devastated because I reasearched the car seats and got the chicco for the safety rating. Come to find out my baby can't sit in it. I recently purchased a flannel seat cover off ebay. It didn't fit. I had to cut slits in it and my baby gets lost in the bedding. Let me know if anybody has luck on seat covers for the chicco's. Thaanks again for the reassurance!

2:46 PM  
Blogger aaanise said...

I am just doing a search for this very thing! My toddler has developed this same blister-y oozy rash from her carseat (Britax Marathon) since she has been wearing summer clothing. I am outraged that these chemicals are allowed in these products, and not even a warning that they might cause dermatitis (as if the manufacturers don't know). I am going to (hopefully) get a new cover, but this needs to be changed! How?

11:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What was your resolution, Katie? I'm dealing with the same thing with my daughter.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My 4 month old is suffering from the same thing. He has oozing raw skin on his scalp and face. It's also scabbing. It only happens when he is in the car seat. I thought maybe the material was just irritating it but I didn't realize it wasn't just the materials but chemcials as well. The poor baby is suffering and in pain. What happened with contacting the company? I didnt' see my particular car seat on the list (Graco metrolite)

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR POST (and to others commenting as well). I JUST put it together this weekend that my 6 month old daughter is probably allergic to her car seat. She developed bad excema on her lower side cheeks at around 3 months old, just about when I went we went back to work/she went to daycare (daily car commutes); very itchy, red, oozy, then it got infected. I won't go into all the details, but suffice to say: 4 trips to pediatrian(s), one mis-diagnosis of impetigo, blood letting for allergy tests, and various potions and lotions for the last 3 months. After dressing her in short sleeves for the first time this past weekend, the sides of both her arms broke out in red, inflamed eczema...right where they touch her seat. That's when I started to think that the location of the rest of the eczema (sides of face/under chin/chin, and head)all correspond to places touched by the car seat material. I cut up one of my husbands old cotton oxfords to fit in the seat (similar to the "bundle me" configuration), and we started using that 3 days ago...the eczema/scratching has started to clear! I feel so bad that I didn't think of this sooner, but so glad I did a "search" and found your site; I feel like this may be it! THANK YOU!!!!

4:08 PM  
Blogger the bells said...

Thank you for your post and to all the commenters!! We have a Britax Marathon and our daughter broke out after a long car ride in a sundress. Very helpful!!

9:20 PM  
Blogger Cal said...

Besides purchasing a car seat cover out of 100% cotton, what medicine can we use to treat the oozing blisters

10:33 PM  
Blogger Cal said...

Thank you so much for this information; my granddaughter has VERY SIMILAR symptoms on her arms, legs, and neck. Needless to say, I am very angry over this. Please let me know if you baby's rash has cleared up, and what if anything your doctor prescribed to fix her rash - we are very concerned about our granddaughter.. Thank you..

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter didn't get a rash, but something else happened that may pertain to this blog. I washed teh cover to my SnugRide Metropolitan and the WORST ODOR has permeated my washer and house from the stench of the car seat cover. Definitely a toxic smell and no matter how many times i have washed it, it won't go away. Does anyone know if I can buy a new non-toxic car seat cover replacement instead of just a cover that goes over the original car seat cover? So mad and frustrated!

10:56 PM  
Blogger jpjaynes said...

I contacted Chicco about the Chicco keyfit 30 to find out what chemicals were used and got the runaround here is the response
"Dear Chicco Customer,

Thank you for your inquiry. Chicco is very aware of and concerned about recent studies such as the Ecology Center’s ( “Guide to Child Car Seats”, which discusses the toxicity of certain chemicals or elements in child car seats. ALL Chicco products meet or exceed the stringent safety standards in the U.S. and Europe regarding chemical content. Additionally, all Chicco products are Phthalate-free. At this time, because of differences in chemical extraction methods, we do not have values that directly correlate to the Ecology Center’s study. Chicco has an independent lab working on correlation of these values. Once this study is available, Chicco will post a statement on their chemical content on their website, Thank you for your concern and interest in Chicco products.


Customer Service
Chicco USA

I am definitely washing this before my newborn goes in it and putting a cover on it. has not done a review of this particular seat yet but it is high on the list to get tested...if you have one vote for it as it is close to getting tested!!

12:40 PM  
Blogger The Russells said...

We have also had the same awful rash with the Chicco Keyfit. I hate that all of these babies (and their parents) are going through this!

4:33 PM  
Anonymous colleen said...

We also went through this when my son was about 2 months old last summer. We had the Chicco Keyfit, and we also borrowed a friend's Graco Comfortsport-but both caused the same reaction. We tried to wash the cover, but no relief. I ordered a cotton cover off Ebay-but it didn't help-and the Wonderful woman who made the cover allowed me to return it and try one made out of another fabric-and it worked!!! HIs skin cleared up and we have all been much happier. We had to switch over to the convertible seat a few months ago and got the Britax Marathon and had no problems...until last weekend. First warm day of the season-75 degrees, in shorts, trip to grandpa's about an hour away-and the next morning he woke up with a horrible rash! I tried to blame it on a million other things-heat rash, strawberries, etc...but know from the appearance and pattern of the rash that it's from the carseat:( We've stayed home the last few days-and skin is looking good again. Time to find a convertible car seat cover.

I know someone contacted Britax and received a new cover-Did that help?

The worst of all of this is I wonder if there may be long term effects from these chemicals-and the thought of it makes me sick to my stomach...

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So does no one make a car seat without all the toxic chemicals?? I've been googling this for an hour with no luck. There are non toxic flame retardants as I understand, right? Let's talk solutions.

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are having the same problem with Peg Perego... havent seen this one listed yet. Crazy stuff...I thank G-d I found this info!

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have done a lot of research into brominated flame retardants as I think I am allergic to bromine. I was also getting very itchy and red after a long trip in the car. We are all being exposed to the outgassing from these chemicals. It has improved since I cleaned any dust away and always drive with the windows open. Try to detox your home too with plants and plenty of ventilation as you will find plenty of sources of brominated flame retardants there.. The public need to be better informed about this exposure to toxins which can cause a lot more problems than a skin rash.

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*Really* appreciate this exchange. After two weeks, 5 visits to the doctor, antibiotics, and misdiagnosis, we finally figured out that my 4 month old son's terrible, infected rash was a result of a reaction to the flame retardants in the Chicco Key Fit 30 car seat. We were all so stressed out and worried for our little guy! I feel so terrible exposing him to these chemicals. Similarly described here, he experienced rashes on his arms, lower legs, and back of his head - they looked like open sores that were constantly oozing and just awful. He was initially diagnosed with impetigo and eczema, and it only became clearly later that it was some type of reaction.

I contacted Chicco, who was actually very responsive. My guess is that this has happened quite a bit. They are sending us a new cover, along with an additional eco-friendly cover (bokoo covers). They will also be testing our car seat cover.I've asked for the results, but not sure if they will provide. I strongly recommend others to contact the manufactures.

Here is what the Chicco rep said (similar to what someone gave above):

We are sorry to hear that your son has developed a rash and appreciate that you have brought this issue to our attention. We will be sending you the replacement coverings today by UPS Ground.

"All Chicco products meet or exceed the stringent safety standards in the US and at an international level. Chicco is committed to constantly improving products and materials in order to provide state of the art items which meet the strictest safety standards and our consumers’ expectations. The car seat is treated to meet government automotive safety standards. Unfortunately some children with very sensitive skin may have a reaction to the construction and/or flame retardants that are used to meet these requirements. We sincerely apologize if this is the case with your child. Please be assured that even though we need to meet these requirements, the chemical limits still meet all regulatory requirements."

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard anything about the Orbit Baby car seat? We are going through this same battle with our 3 month old and now she has staph! I've read that Orbit Baby is the only mfr to offer the Okeo-Tex 100 textile certification. This cert is supposed to guarantee minimal chemicals possible. They are pretty expensive so I am curious if you all have any feedback? Thanks!

6:04 PM  
Anonymous landonsmom08 said...

OMG! this is heaven!! so glad i found this! thank you so much for posting this! all of yalls comments have been helpfull and just like all of yall we have a 5 month old baby boy who has been suffering this for way too long now and we keep being told by tons of doctors that it is eczema! clearly its not and in my gut i knew it was the car seat but every time i would mention it they told me that the car seat was probably just "irritating it" not causing it...but i knew it. so now my problem has been trying to find a car seat cover that is only cotton which as all of yall know is super difficult. so please if someone finds something that works, PLEASE let me know or post it! thank you!

1:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our 4 month old son has been suffering from rashes on the back of his head, neck, and cheeks. He has been on cephalexen (antibiotic) after his neck rash began oozing pus. He was also prescribed desonide lotion (steroid), also. His doctor also had us giving him benadryl. His car seat is the Gravity Snugride 30 in Lotus. Every time his skin comes into contact with the fabric the rash returns. I started placing a receiving blanket behind his head to provide protection. Once summer arrives I worry about his legs when wearing shorts. Also the blanket never stays in place. I absolutely don't want the rash to return! The poor guy scratches at his head he is so uncomfortable. His rashes also seem to travel to areas that were not touching the fabric directly. Help! Is Graco helpful with this problem?

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

**I meant to say Graco Snugride 30 in my last post.

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We also have the Graco Lotus and it did the same exact thing to my baby. I figured it out on my own and went and bought new covers for the straps but he sits on a receiving blanket non stop. If his skin touches the RED fabic in this car seat at all - that's when he breaks out. I wonder if all these breakouts have anything to do with what's on the red. His arms only touch the black- so no problem. But back of head, cheeks, and legs breakout after contact.

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what kind of covers for the straps and where did you purchase(find) them..thank you

10:54 PM  
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9:50 AM  
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9:11 AM  

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