What is causing my child’s skin allergy?

Some everyday products can trigger skin reactions in children, so avoiding these top allergy causes can provide some welcome relief. 

A number of children who go to skin clinics with suspected dermatitis have some kind of skin allergy, and the numbers of children with these allergies is on the rise.

But there are some common causes of this uncomfortable skin problem – and knowing what they are means you can try to reduce exposure to them.

Skin Health Institute researcher Dr Claire Felmingham says allergic contact dermatitis is associated with skin allergies. She is part of a team that has identified the most common allergens that can trigger this type of dermatitis.

“Certain compounds can cause allergic contact dermatitis but it’s a delayed reaction. You come into contact with something and a day, or multiple days later, you develop a rash,” she says.

How are skin allergies diagnosed?

It is diagnosed with patch testing on the skin on the back.

“When a child comes into the clinic a history is taken and we find out what possible allergens they come into contact with,” says Dr Felmingham.

“Patches with allergens are applied to the back and a few days later the patches are removed and a couple of days later you might see a positive reaction – the patch will be red, raised and may blister.”

Dr Felmingham’s research has identified some of the most common day-to-day items that can lead to allergic contact dermatitis:

The top five causes of skin allergies

Fragrance mix

“Fragrance is in so many products like cosmetics and perfumes, soaps, moisturisers and shampoo – anything that smells nice will have fragrance in it,” says Dr Felmingham.


Technically known as methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone, these preservatives can be found in wet wipes, liquid soap, shampoos and skincare products.

“MI and MCI will be listed on an ingredients label and we recommend people avoid these because they are potent allergens,” says Dr Felmingham.

Myroxylon pereirae

 This is also a fragrance allergen and it can be listed on labels as Balsam of Peru. It may be found in perfumes, after shave, baby powder, suntan lotion and shampoos.


This can be found in jewellery, toys and metal clothes fastenings like zippers.


This originates from the resin in pine trees and is often used in adhesive dressings.

What to do if your child has a skin allergy

If children have atopic dermatitis, use products with fewer ingredients, says Dr Felmingham.

“People with atopic dermatitis have an impaired skin barrier are more likely to develop irritation or allergy from exposure to different ingredients and fragrances,” she says.

“Use simple products and if you suspect your child has allergic contact dermatitis, speak to your GP and consider getting a referral to a dermatologist.”

Written by Sarah Marinos.