Q. I have a number of allergies and chemical sensitivities. Here’s the latest reaction: every time I use an airplane toilet or a Port-a-Potty, I have very uncomfortable swelling of my privates. It happened to me today after using the restroom in a local big-box store. Friends have told me of the same reaction.

Is some new chemical being added to the paper to make it dissolve faster or something? This reaction can also make me feel as if I have a urinary tract infection that lasts only a day or so.

A. There are several cases of “toilet paper dermatitis” in the medical literature (Canadian Family Physician, April, 2010). Some products may contain residues of bleach or formaldehyde used to process the paper. These agents may irritate delicate skin in sensitive people.

Do not assume, however, that moist, flushable wipes would be safer. Many brands use a preservative that can trigger allergic dermatitis (Pediatric Dermatology, March-April, 2014).

Once you identify a brand of toilet paper that does not cause a skin reaction, you may wish to carry some with you to avoid the unpleasant results of relying on public restroom paper.

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  1. sm

    Not just public restrooms-I was having the same awful symptoms at home. After reading this article in my newspaper, I stopped using my regular brand and the symptoms subsided. I looked on the packaging and it said “Made in the USA from domestic and imported material.” That was the extent of the ingredients list. I have started using “Eco-friendly” toilet paper. Much more comfortable now.

  2. Donnie

    I’ve taken folded up sheets of my own toilet paper, to use in public restrooms, for many years. I also carry my own safe liquid hand soap in a small bottle, and a few of my paper towels from home. I have serious reactions to the soap and paper in public toilets. I carry a plastic bag in my purse with the things I will need, if I have to use public bathrooms.

  3. pp

    My husband requires us to use Cottonelle for this very reason.
    Question: WE just returned from an overseas trip and in a number of places they had bidet sprays. How do you use them other than to flush when the regular plumbing isn’t working?

  4. jk

    I am wondering if some toilet paper is made in China or made of ingredents that is made in China? So many things that are made in the US are made of Chinese ingredents that are shipped over here for use.

  5. Deni

    Public places often buy cheap so it is not surprising to have trouble with tissue. It’s not a topic often brought into conversation so I’m glad it was brought up here. I can sympathize with those that have dermatitis and sensitive skin. I have tried a variety of wipes, and I use them when I travel but can’t overuse. My home solution is a handheld bidet sprayer that attaches to the faucet for warm water. They are relatively inexpensive (start at $60). I have used one at home for a few years and can highly recommend it. There are also travel versions but I haven’t tried any yet.


    That’s good info. Thanks P.P.

  7. Cme

    I have had difficulty with inflammation of the tender skin of my vaginal area. I kept saying it was the toilet paper… I have complained it disintegrates upon moisture coming in contact with it. I found little pcs of paper stuck and needed to wash more often. Isn’t the point of Toilet Paper to dry ourselves???
    I have tried several different brands. I thought they were putting something in the paper to make it break down, with all the issues of ecology. This is at our EXPENSE to our health.
    I have to use vaginal creams to stop the irritation, now I am convinced it is the paper…
    Thanks for the information..:)

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