Bathing in a Rainbow


My daughter woke up from her nap and walked over proudly displaying a lifted shirt. “Look at my spots!” she declared. I ignored her at first. She had said something about her spots the night before and I hadn’t seen anything. Then I looked again and saw little red spots all over her torso. My heart panicked. I pulled her close to inspect her. She had raised red spots all over. Chicken Pox? No, definitely not. Rash? Doesn’t look like it. Hives? I think so. My heart is doing loopdey loops while I do a mental check of what she’s eaten the last several hours. You see, my daughter has a fatal peanut allergy that we carry an Epi Pen for and I was really hoping it wasn’t going to be needed. I removed her clothing and checked out the location of the hives. Stomach, back, thighs, butt. Hmmm? I snap some pictures. I’ve learned that if I need to take her in, the medical world really likes pictures. It helps to confirm you’re not crazy (well, maybe not – but my doctor’s enjoy using them to collaborate allergies).

The mom I babysit for suggests that maybe its location would be indicative of a reaction to laundry detergent. Hmm? I consider it. Perhaps. We did use a new laundry detergent a week and a half ago, while camping. I ponder on that one for awhile and then conclude that’s not it. We used it once and she hasn’t worn any of the laundry in the recent past. I consider a bubble bath she had the night before. Would a bubble bath irritate her skin that much? It was her first one.

My daughter is itching like crazy. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. I call my really knowledgeable mama friend that knows everything about natural remedies and herbs. Not home. I bound to the computer to pop off an email to my AP support group and then I wait. Yes, they confirm it looks like hives.

Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. I need to do something about this scratching. I look at her again looking for any signs of swelling, difficulty breathing, anything. She’s fine, just scratching. I rummage through the cupboard. We’ve got nothing topical. I conceed and decide I will give her some Benadryl. I was hoping for something more natural. At least it is dye free. Dye free. Wait a minute.

The wheels start to spin. I had grabbed the bubble bath out of my cupboard because Camden didn’t have any. It was pink. Oh man! I didn’t even think about it! The soap had been a gift years ago so I had never bothered to check the label, never even thought about what might be in it while I poured about 4 TBSP in her bath. I was used to reading the labels of food, not bath products. I went to get the bottle knowing what I would find.

There it was: Blue 1, Green 3, Red 4, Red 33, Yellow 5, Yellow 6

Ugh. Well, at least I had confirmed I wasn’t crazy about my daughter reacting behaviorally to consuming artificial dyes. If she got hives all over her body from soaking in them then certainly it isn’t unreasonable to assume she will have a very negative emotional reaction to eating them. What I found strange is that the bath was given the day before.

I ask my trusty AP group if a reaction can be that delayed. They think so. I google hives. Yep, delayed reactions. Well, I guess that makes sense. My daughter has delayed reactions when she eats dye too.

So there you have it. Conclusion? Don’t bathe your children in a rainbow either.


  1. Emily's Mom · August 18, 2008

    My two year old daughter has a skin reaction when she injests Red #40. They will not do allergy tests on her because they say she is too young. We have figured out her sensitivity through process of elimination. (ie: ingredients in foods that she normally eats compared to foods that she reacts to – the only common ingredient in food that she reacts to, that is not in other foods that she can eat, is Red #40)

    Her reaction is much like I’ve heard a reaction to strawberries would be. Initially we thought that was the problem until she reacted to a Rainbow Chips Ahoy cookie. She gets big red angry looking blotches on her face and the swelling was so bad during the first reaction, that it looked like the bridge of her nose was level with her face.

    I have put the warning out to anyone that may decide to give her anything to eat but not everyone listens. Our neighbour insists on giving her things to eat and fortunately we have been able to stop her before she eats whatever it is. This does not curb her disappointment at not being able to eat the treat that she is being offered.

    She is aware of her food allergy and most of the time will ask if she can have something that is offered. However, she is only two (three in October) and will obviously not always think to ask. “Mommy can I have this? Is there red in it?”

    I have also been concerned with whether or not she could react to just touching something with Red #40 in it… your information about the bubble bath has solidified my thoughts and I am very glad that I have been adament about the products that she comes into contact with topically as well as what she injests.

    Recently she became ill with a bad cold and required antibiotics. I stood in the pharmacy with the pharmacist talking to my doctor on the phone while we all tried to determine which antibiotic did not have Red #40. Btw.. amoxicillin now has Red #40 in it.. no more banana flavour here. (Ontario, Canada) We ended up finding out that Biaxin is dye free. We use the dye free Motrin for fever etc.

    I’m sorry if this post has been full of grammatical and spelling errors. As with all of you, this is a subject that is very close to my heart and scares me.

  2. journeytocrunchville · March 11, 2008


    I hope your mom feels better! That’s awful about the Hives. It could definitely be the popcorn but to be on the safe side make sure she doesn’t rule out other environmental sources too. Movie popcorn and boxed popcorn is really some nasty stuff.

    Here is another article I have in regards to a chemical in boxed popcorn that has been linked to cancer if consumed in large amounts:

  3. Jenny · March 11, 2008

    my mom has just come down with a severe case of hives, head to toes. The only thing we can think of that she’s had new is movie popcorn, which was a funny orange color. She is really sick, with hot thick welts all over her body.
    Thank you for your site, it really helps to find out more about other peoples’ reactions.
    Hope the little ones are feeling better!!!

  4. Holli · December 13, 2007


    I am taking my 4 yr old son to the doctor today because of his “meltdowns” – we have been really looking at what he eats and wondering if he just has food allergies. Last night – in an effort to only give him, what I thought was nothing bad, while watching a movie, he had popcorn and water….within a 1/2 hour of the first bite – he was in full meltdown mode. I am bridging the gaps and learning a lot. Thanks so much for your post! Yellow dye is first chemical on my list of NO MORES!


  5. journeytocrunchville · September 9, 2007


    Your post made ME cry. It is really awful isn’t it? When a lot of time goes by between reactions for us my mind starts to play tricks on me and I sometimes wonder if it isn’t me making it up, if I’m reading too much into it, if maybe it’s just a “coincidence” but everytime one of these things happen it reinforcest that I’m still level headed and these reactions are a true reflection of her bodies incapability to adapt to these chemicals. Good for her, though. I’d rather her be intolerable to them which forces us all to eat healthier food. But I admit I get jealous sometimes that I have to worry about Halloween, Birthdays, Holidays and just about anything else. LOL

    Thank you for sharing your experience.


  6. ember · September 9, 2007

    The EXACT same thing happened to my (now) 4 year old son. Twice (different soaps).

    He, too, has a dye sensitivity. I had tears in my eyes when I read your post about your daughter eating dyes and the effect. I actually sent that link to people that know my son, including my older children (we have a “no dyes in the house” rule with food and it has caused conflict on allowance days, when friends come over, etc).

    The first time this happened (dyes in the bubble bath), we thought that he had chicken pox. By the time it happened again (body wash), we knew for sure that it was those damn dyes.

    People ask me “… WHICH dye is he allergic to? Just red? Can he have yellow?” (etc). This is just crazy to me…. But I found out the very hard way that yellow is just as affecting as red. We went to the new Harry Potter movie with friends a few months ago and during the movie I went out and bought popcorn (I have read your blog about popcorn, too… we JUST found one with no dyes… but I am not doing any more ever again anyway). Back to story; the theater was very dark as it is an indy theater that is very old (no A/C or anything, either). I could not clearly see the popcorn, but I asked if it had dyes. They said no, that the “butter” spray was added on as an option. I opted for no “butter”. I tasted it and was a bit surprised at how salty the “plain” popcorn was, but I did not taste or register anything other than salt (and just imagined that it was added to the popcorn during the air popping).

    The movie was a bit dull for my four year old. We were all a bit hot. I got a FEW things of large popcorn to kinda bribe him through the showing…. and we made it through the movie okay.

    We stepped outside after the movie was over. INSTANTLY he melted down. Screaming, bucking, hitting, biting, and sobbing. He wanted to go into the road. He wanted to go under parked cars. He pulled away from me and darted to the side of the building, clung, and screamed. I looked in the bag clutched in his hands; the popcorn was that bright sickening yellow/orange color. Dyes.

    We were riding with friends. We were across town. It was rush hour traffic time. My poor baby SCREAMED the whole ride (nearly an hour) home; gagging and gasping, frothing and choking, and using profanity at times. He could not stand to have things touch him. The sun was “buringing” his eyes. By the end of the trip he was banging his head methodically against the side of his car seat and clawing at his face.

    The bags under his eyes were startling. They looked like welts or bruises or something. It was disturbing.

    My friend has never once questioned the dye sensitivity after that point. My older children (whom have not been present for many of the other instances of our youngest son getting into dyes either with food or otherwise) really got to see this one in action. We had to ride it out like a wave.

    He did not get good sleep that night. He acted hung over the next day. It was horrible.

  7. Pingback: It’s About Time « Journey To Crunchville
  8. Emeth Hesed · August 19, 2007

    People laugh at me sometimes and tell me I’m paranoid when I tell them that food dye is poisonous … it makes me so mad. Poor baby. I hope she gets all better very soon.

  9. Laini · August 18, 2007

    Your poor kiddo! My son had this once, and I didn’t bother to check about dye!

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