Big Scare in Little Tok

rashjan09While the morning started off with the excitement of many new visitors to this blog, the mood quickly turned to fear as we were sitting down for breakfast and my husband was putting my daughter into her high chair.

“Did you see her face?” he asked, startled.

“No. What is it?”

“She’s red. She’s red all over.”

I turned to look and sure enough, she had large red patches on her cheeks and across her nose.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know,” he replied.

We went into Parent Panic mode with a little Crisis Coping clicking in. I told him to undress her to see where else she was red. Arms, especially forearms, wrists and elbows. A little on her shoulder. Nothing on the torso or back. But also on her knees.

She wasn’t having trouble breathing, she wasn’t fussy and didn’t seem to be bothered by it. But we were somewhere between Freak Out and Quiet Hysteria.

We checked our medicine chest for Children’s Benedryl but couldn’t find any. Then I grabbed the phone and called our pediatrician in Anchorage to speak with a triage nurse. I knew it wasn’t an emergency but also couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

As the nurse and I went through a litany of possible causes, my husband held our daughter and examined the rash.

Was it the blueberries or raspberries she ate? But she has had them often.

The vitamin drink we gave her? She has that every morning.

The diluted orange juice? Nothing new.

Hugging the big Black Lab? But she does that all the time without a reaction.

“Can we feed her now?” I asked, our breakfast getting cold on the table.

“Yes. She is laughing and isn’t in distress. No fever. Sometimes we just can’t explain why a child gets a rash,” said the nurse.

I asked what should we do in case she went into anaphylactic shock. The nurse assured me that she wouldn’t – if it was going to happen, it would have happened a while ago.

“But call 911 immediately. Don’t call us,” she instructed.

After we hung up, I told my husband that we need some emergency plans for our household, just like companies do them. We agreed that if our daughter had gone into anaphylactic shock, calling 911 wasn’t the solution in Tok. We could just drive her less than a mile to the Tok Clinic faster than it would take to get an ambulance over to us.

“It’s starting to go away,” my husband announced, looking at our daughter.

Sure enough, the patch on her left cheek was slightly smaller.

We again ran through everything she had eaten and touched this morning.

The carpet.

She had been sitting near a spot where my husband cleaned up after the Chihuahua and used copious amounts of chemical cleaner.

Because we felt confident we had isolated the culprit – and it was an external irritant – we followed the nurse’s instructions to bathe our toddler in warm water with 4 oz. of baking soda. By the time she was out of the bath, the rash was virtually gone.

I was still shaky inside as I sat back down to finish my breakfast. And I’m determined to replace all of the toxic chemicals and cleaners in our house with non-toxic ones.

Are you using non-toxic cleaners? What are you using?

Leave a comment


  1. Aspen isn’t quite as cold as Tok! Snow adventures are fun aren’t they? Glad the rash was solved. Reminds me of John Travolta and how his son Jet recently died – he had Kawasaki syndrome and they believe it was caused by his exposure to carpet cleaning materials (when Jet was a baby, apparently they had their carpets cleaned constantly because they were trying to keep everything a little TOO clean for the new baby). Method cleaners are good- and good old fashioned Vinegar is a GREAT cleaner.

    • Toxic cleaners have long been a health hazard but thankfully the “green” movement is making us all more aware. The scary thing is that the skin on my feet and toes has been burning, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. It was the same chemicals. Definitely time to make a change.

  2. I saw your blog site mentioned on the news, so I swung by to say hello 🙂
    As for your cleaners, there really isn’t much you can’t do with vinegar and/or baking soda. If you need a bit more acid you can always add lemon juice.
    Stay warm and hug that baby!

  3. I have been using Melaleuca products for a while now. The old remedies and cleaners are great, but there is a reason they were improved upon. Melaleuca even has a disinfectant I have replaced my Chlorox with: made with herbs!

    I’ve also heard Seventh Generation is a non-toxic line, but I’m not prone to changing right now to try it.

  4. Kim From Michigan

     /  January 10, 2009

    Nature’s Miracle. I have been using this product for a long time, works great on those little doggie messes. (Big doggie messes too!)

    Btw… followed a link from the Drudge Report here to your blog. Thanks I have enjoyed reading it!

  5. Kim From Michigan

     /  January 10, 2009

    P.S. And I used to think it was cold here in Michigan. I must be a wus!

  6. Alicia Greene

     /  January 10, 2009

    Hi there, I’ve been enjoying your blog. Great job at showing us life in Tok. Sorry to hear about the rash, but here is a link discussing the new Clorox cleaners that are 99% natural. I use the surface and window one for everything, including cleaning laminate floors and carpet spot cleaning and it does a good job. Smells nice and doesn’t leave a residue on windows or floors. I have lots of critters and you have to be concerned about floor cleaners especially as they will lick their feet and ingest poisons. Anway, for what it’s worth here is the link for you to check out:

  7. You are right that driving directly to the clinic is usually the best option if you can.

    If it is after hours or on the weekend the clinic is not open. At those times call 911, tell them the situation and let them know that you will meet them at the clinic. A lot of people do this and it is the fastest method if you are close to town.

  8. JohnG

     /  January 10, 2009

    Stay Warm! We have a young woman from Alaska who frequents our politics room. She’s been telling us about the cold weather this year.

    It’s in the 30s here in NJ and we’re complaining.

  9. Gail C

     /  January 10, 2009

    As far as non-toxic cleaners, start using Shaklee products, they’re all natural and in balance with nature, bio degradable, safe, and all the things you need with a child in the house. I’ve been using their products for 41 years. Just look in the yellow pages for a Shaklee representative, they also sell vitamins, personal care products, etc.
    Yes, they’re a little pricey but non-toxic which is apparently important for your little one.

  10. Nurses In Space

     /  January 10, 2009

    Aha….Contact Dermatitis. no biggie once you remove the guilty irritant.

    How’s your chihuahua doing in the chilly stuff?
    I hear a local Mexican lady in Tok makes cool doggiefleece stuff for chihuahuas, check it out.

  11. Erica

     /  January 11, 2009

    As a mother of two little girls, the blood froze in my veins as I read and totally understood why you went into Parent Panic mode.

    For cleaning, I use an H2O/vinegar mix and use Dr. Bronner’s soap to clean – it smells good and cleans well.

    Bestest Wishes! Erica

  12. Sharon

     /  January 11, 2009

    Citra-Solv. It comes in several forms, including several for pet stains. It’s available on Amazon.

  13. Ann

     /  January 11, 2009

    You take care of yourself! We’ve seen 38 below since we relocated to Minnesota 15 years ago after 28 years in California….and THAT hurt! I can’t begin to comprehend 78 below. That is serious cold.

  14. Mike

     /  January 11, 2009

    This kind of contact dermatitis is usually from an actual chemical irritant – not the kind of stuff you would be using at home to clean a carpet since the trace amounts that got on your child are tiny compared to the amounts that the person cleaning would be exposed to – or from an allergy. Most allergies are to protein molecules – something unlikely to be in a carpet cleaner.

    Before you banish the carpet cleaner and assume you have solved the problem do a test.

    Take some carpet cleaner and dilute it in 100 parts water. (After all, your daughter got exposed to only what rubbed on her from the carpet, right?). Then put a drop on her back. (Not her hand – you don’t want her licking it).

    If you see no effect try one drop diluted at 10 to 1.

    If still no effect then just one drop undiluted.

    If still no effect then you need to look for another culprit.

  15. Kelly

     /  January 11, 2009

    Thank NPR!

  16. jill

     /  January 11, 2009

    Another culprit may be the carpet.The last one we installed smelled terrible with that new car plastic smell. I have since researched wool vs synthetic fiber carpets., and discovered a benzene connection.We ripped up the synthetic carpet and installed a wood floor, after my son was diagnosed with leukemia, often caused by benzene exposure.
    Unfortunately he passed away in Sept.06 at the age of 17,after almost 2 years of being diagnosed.
    I am so glad to hear that your son recovered! Please never take him for granted and always read him an extra book when he asks for another story at bedtime!
    I completely understand the panic parent mode, you were not over reacting!

  17. I became an Uncle for the first time 9 weeks ago. I can see myself being a neurotic parent, as I have something to say everytime someone picks up my little nephew without holding him 100%.

  18. sower13

     /  January 11, 2009

    what do you do in Tok? why are you living there

    • I’m an Internet/social media consultant so my business is pretty portable although I am facing some bandwidth challenges. My husband is a wildlife biologist and got a great offered job here.

  19. Maribeth

     /  January 11, 2009

    I found this blog thru NPR – great idea. I am enjoying it.

  20. tom fauquet

     /  January 11, 2009

    My daughter had Kawasaki syndrome at age 2 or 3. It was diagnosed early and she had no lingering effects. This was 30 years years ago so I don’t remember the treatment but I think it was something as simple as an aspirin regimine(?). Her’s was believed to have been caused by carpet cleaning.

  21. Vinegar. Cleans well, completely harmless. I use it for almost everything.

    I’m digging your blog!

  22. bela

     /  January 11, 2009

    calling 911 in Tok gets you 911 response in Fairbanks, you are better off calling the state troopers offce here in Tok direct

  23. Bill

     /  January 11, 2009


    My wife & I live down the street from your husband’s office.

    Wait until she licks something metal outside in the cold, like our son did when he was about 5.

    Welcome to Tok.


  24. Michele

     /  January 11, 2009

    Nature’s Miracle is good for stains. Esp pet stains. For general cleaning, I highly recommend AFM’s Super Clean. No odors, just good cleaning soap. It’s entirely possible to live without ANY toxic cleaners. although after several years finally bought some coment to clean some tough stains in the sink. But I normally use “Bon Ami” cleanser for pots and pans, etc. It usually does a very nice job. Have fun getting rid of those icky cleaners. I threw them out years ago. Good non-toxic soap products and good old-fashioned elbow grease goes a long way.

  25. Michele

     /  January 11, 2009

    Oh, and I agree with Amanda—vinegar is awesome. Great anti-mold and anti-bacterial agent. I clean toilets with it, plus the Super Clean. I also use vinegar in the laundry to get rid of bacterial or moldy odors, like when the laundry sits in the washer for too long after the cycle finishes. Also, stop using scented versions of your favorite detergents. Get the fragrance-free versions, because those scents are solvents. Yes, solvents. Amazing what you didn’t know, eh? And when we use that strong-smelling stuff and then sleep in the sheets that we’ve washed them in, or wear the clothes washed in those, we are smelling solvents all day. No thanks===my kids deserve lots better! So does everyone’s kids!

  26. Michele

     /  January 11, 2009

    oops–coment s/b”Comet”

  27. Tony Green

     /  January 11, 2009

    Hi Azliza, your cuz here, I just read about the baby’s rashes, glad the baby is OK. I do recommend the Melaleuca products. I use some of the skin care products and am quite pleased with the results. Friends at work claim the home cleaning products are great around people who have reactions to harsh store brands. Especially for young and older people who are more sensitive.

    Sound like your new town is quite a place to live in! Regards to the whole family.

  28. I did a parody post on my site and linked to the wrong post on your site. I Apologize for this. I am extremely glad your daughter is alright! 🙂

  29. Julie

     /  January 12, 2009

    Not to make you paranoid, but before you put the food allergies or dog allergies to bed you might want to write down everythings she had that morning. I was not allergic to fish until I was 21 years old. I had eaten it a lot in my life, but just one day, my body reacted to it. People have to be exposed to allergens before they react to it. I am not saying it wasn’t the chemical, but if you write things down and then it happens again, you will have clues as to what caused it.

    Good Luck!

    • I’m pretty good about noting what she consumes or is exposed to. Because the rash literally faded almost before our eyes during and after her bath in baking soda, I’m feeling fairly certain that it was contact dermatitis in this case. That said, I feel no less determined to do a careful examination around the house and eliminate as many toxins as possible. As someone who has been harmed by invisible toxins in my own home – and lost 2 dogs because of it – I’m ultra sensitive to environmental hazards but still have a lot to learn. Read my story about our C02 scare here:

  30. gordon kuhne

     /  January 12, 2009

    try using vinegar and water to remove spots. Works great and isn’t toxic. Rug cleaning chemicals are extremely harmful to young children.

  31. Kathy

     /  January 12, 2009

    We use Seventh Generation and other all nautral or organic cleaners. You can google homemade cleaners too. I had a very scary accident where I nearly blinded myself wiping my eyes after using handsanitizer – long after it had dried. My entired eye ball swelled out of socket and turned a disgusting yellow. I couldn’t shut my eyelids. The emergancy room isn’t the place to be. I’ll never go back to the chem cleaners.

  32. My parents, who visited Tok recently, told me about your Blog and this article. I experienced the exact same thing with my daughter and had to convert my entire household over to non-toxic cleaning products. I use Melaleuca ( products and I LOVE, LOVE them. You order online and they are shipping directly to your home. It’s easy and they are effective and cost-effective. If you are interested, send me an email back and I can tell you how you can order them.

  33. Mo

     /  January 14, 2009

    I wracked my brain trying to remember what caused this in my son when he was about 3, and it just came to me. It was strep throat, no joke. Patches of red on his arms, shoulders, a bit on his face, and his legs. We lived, like, 3 minutes from a clinic at the time so we took him over. A couple throat cultures and every last one of us was diagnosed with strep.
    Sounds like that wasn’t the case here, but it drove me so crazy trying to remember that I had to comment anyways!

  34. carl

     /  March 9, 2010

    Go Lance…………The race is on……………..carl

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