LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. - Anya Ansley and her 5-month-old, Eli, are smiling a lot more these days.
For most of the summer, the Lee’s Summit mother and her baby boy have stayed cooped up inside the house, trying to get rid of a painful rash on his arms and legs that refused to heal.
Ansley’s pediatrician diagnosed a bad case of eczema. Weeks later, the assessment did not change when she sought a second opinion at Children’s Mercy Hospital. Steroid creams and other treatments did not seem to make a difference.
“He was crying and there was nothing I could do to help him,” said Ansley. “It was so frustrating.”
Nearing her breaking point, Ansley vented on Facebook after a particularly rough outing in the car. As a status update, she typed, “Nearly 30 minutes in the car seat this morning and Eli’s eczema is raging. I’m gonna lose my mind.”
One of her friends saw the posting and suggested she connect with another mom who had a similar story. Ansley looked at photos of the child’s rash and thought it looked identical to Eli’s skin condition. It turns out that mother’s son had a rash that would not go away until she switched car seats.
“It was like a light bulb going off,” said Ansley. “And so that very same day, we decided we are not putting him in that car seat anymore. Ten days later, his skin was clear.”
Even though her older son had no problems with the Chicco brand car seat, Ansley wondered if Eli's skin was sensitive to the material. She opted for a Britax model.
A study released last week on healthystuff.org found “chemicals of concern” in 60 percent of car seats tested, including brominated flame retardants, arsenic, lead and other heavy metals.
While it is possible some kids may have a reaction to chemicals in the fabric, Children’s Mercy toxicologist Dr. Gary Wasserman said he has never seen a direct correlation.
Wasserman adds the safety benefits of car seats far exceed any potential skin problems. He worries about parents being hesitant to use a car seat because of fears over chemicals. Instead of buying a new car seat, he suggested putting a towel or cloth over the seat to add a layer of protection.
“We live in a chemical soup where we are exposed to tens of thousands of chemicals every second,” said Wasserman. “The most important thing from the study is you hope the manufacturers for children or for humans think about the chemicals they use and how they might come out of products and expose people to them.”
Even if Eli’s story is rare, Ansley said it could help other parents searching for answers.
“You know it would be worth it to have in the back of their mind that maybe we’re not dealing with eczema. Maybe it’s a car seat issue,” she said.
After being contacted about the situation, Chicco sent the family a new seat cover. However, Ansley said she will stick with the other brand because the reaction has not flared back up since the switch.
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