Allergic contact dermatitis is a common allergic disease progressing with skin lesions, occurring as a result of direct skin contact with an allergen. According to the statistics at least two out of 100 people suffer from allergic dermatitis. Besides, allergic contact dermatitis amounts in up to 90% of all occupational diseases occurring with skin lesions. And the number of patients with allergic dermatitis increases every year.
Allergic Dermatitis Causes
It takes at least 14 days from the very first moment of contact with an allergen (substance that causes an allergic reaction) to the occurrence of symptoms of allergic dermatitis. If a patient has already developed allergies and is sensitive to the substance, this time is reduced to three days.
For the development of allergic contact dermatitis allergens must have close and prolonged contact with the skin. Currently scientists have described more than three thousand substances that can trigger the development of allergic dermatitis rash. And this number continues to grow every day. Here are some common allergens:
- Allergens of plant origin (chrysanthemum, daisy, artichoke, ragweed, hogweed, citrus, tulip, pine, narcissus, asparagus, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, hyacinth). Some of them cause seasonal allergic dermatitis;
- Metals and substances containing them (nickel, cobalt, chrome, gold, mercury, copper);
- The substances which are included in rubber;
- Preservatives (formalin, ethylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, benzylparaben, hexachlorophene);
- Medications (neomycin, benzocaine, procaine, mepivacaine, lidocaine, nitrofurantoin);
- Other substances (tar, wax, lanolin, acrylic, ethylenediamine, diaminodiphenylmethane, rosin).
All this substances can be found in items of daily use such as cosmetics, cleaning substances and things we possess.
The risk factor for allergic contact dermatitis is a violation of skin integrity. Therefore, allergic dermatitis often develops as an occupational disease when you have contact with aggressive compounds capable to act as allergens and in addition you have regular skin damage during your labor activity.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis Symptoms
The disease may be acute or chronic, which is determined by the frequency of exposure to the allergen. The severity of allergy symptoms directly depends on the duration of exposure to the allergen and its chemical activity.
Typical allergic dermatitis symptoms are redness of your skin, swelling, oozing lesions and appearance of blisters at the site of inflammation. The appearance of above mentioned symptoms is accompanied by intense itch.
Allergic dermatitis symptoms may be disposed directly in place which contacts with the allergen as well as be located at a distance from this area.
Symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis are more intense among younger patients than among adults. There is also a direct correlation between incoming allergen dose and severity of symptoms.
During long-term course of the disease (chronic allergic dermatitis) in place of the usual contact with the allergen your skin thickens, skin pattern increases significantly and your skin can become dry. Appearance of cracks is also possible.
Clinical signs of allergic dermatitis develop immediately after exposure to the allergen. Accordingly to this we can sufficiently reliably identify the putative allergen, based on the localization of the lesions. For example allergic contact dermatitis on face can occur due to bad cosmetics.
Here is stated dependence of the localization of symptoms from allergic dermatitis causes:
- Hands: occupational allergens, jewelry, plant-derived allergens, cosmetics, medications for external use and metals;
- Forearm: allergens of plant origin, metals, fabrics;
- Skin of the face and head: pharmaceutical preparations for external use, cosmetics, sunscreens;
- Lips and the area around the mouth: cosmetics, toothpaste, citrus, sometimes metals and drugs for external use;
- Eyelids: cosmetics, pharmaceuticals. It should be noted that the allergen can be delivered in this area by your hands;
- Forehead and scalp: shampoos, balsams, conditioners, hair dyes;
- Ears: hair care products, metals;
- Armpits: deodorants, fabrics, depilatories;
- Body: medical products for topical application, sunscreen, buttons, zippers, fabrics;
- Inguinal region: latex, fabrics, medical products for local use, cosmetics and perfumes for personal hygiene;
- Feet: shoe components, fabrics, drugs for topical application.
What Tests Do You Need to Take If You Suspect Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Diagnosis is based on typical allergic dermatitis symptoms of the disease and identifying contacts with potential allergens.
You can identify the allergen that causes the allergic disease with the help of so called patch-tests. They are sticky paper plates coated with different allergens. One plate contains more than ten different allergens. These tests are stuck to your back for 48 hours. The skin in tested area should be cleaned beforehand. If you have an allergic disposition to any of the tested allergens, the skin under the corresponding cell will become red or swollen; while dramatically positive response may result into a small blister. Skin dermatitis allergic reaction disappears fast enough after the removal of the allergen plate. These diagnostic tests are freely available in drugstores and their use is safe for your health. But the results still must be interpreted by a doctor who has experience working with similar test systems. If you take corticosteroids you should stop using them at least for 5 days before doing the test. Such test is done only during the remission stage of the disease.
Also patients with allergic contact dermatitis need to take clinical and biochemical blood analyses, sugar test and urine analysis. If necessary the doctor will check your thyroid function and gastrointestinal tract. It is done to identify concomitant diseases and notice other inflammatory processes of the skin of non-allergic nature.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis Pictures
Allergic Dermatitis Treatment
If you have an acute inflammation or weeping use special lotions, which your doctor will prescribe. Local corticosteroid drugs are also effective. They are prescribed in a short 14-day course, with a frequency of use of 1-2 times a day. Choose the latest generation of drugs that do not contain fluorine. For example, any cream or ointment with Methylprednisolone or Hydrocortisone. Such drugs are safe and do not cause changes in the skin when prescribed in a short course.
If allergic reactions are very severe, doctors can possibly prescribe intake of corticosteroid drugs. Only a doctor can determine the duration of allergic dermatitis treatment and dosage as he or she can take into account possible side effects of such therapy.
In the complex treatment for allergic contact dermatitis a doctor may prescribe antihistamines once a day during 10 days. They will help to reduce swelling and itching. Their role in the allergic dermatitis treatment is secondary.
Lifestyle With Allergic Contact Dermatitis
The most important component of the allergic contact dermatitis treatment is the removal of the allergen provoking the disease from your environment. Further recommendations depend on the type of allergen. If possible replace all the items that contain the allergen.
For example, if you are allergic to latex gloves – avoid latex-containing products; take vinyl gloves. If you are allergic to nickel you should get rid of any products containing it. Replace all the buttons, zippers and buckles on clothing for stainless steel, aluminum or plastic.
If it is impossible to avoid allergen (keys, door handles, etc.) cover them with varnish, which is safe in its composition.
Select jewelry made from the noble metals of high assay.
Carefully study the composition of purchased products, cosmetics, household chemicals, etc. in order to avoid new contacts with allergens.
In any form of allergic skin diseases it is necessary to observe a few rules:
- Do not wear tight clothes from synthetic materials;
- Use hypoallergenic detergent, such as soap or baby powder;
- Avoid excessively hot temperatures, the optimum temperature inside should be 24 degrees;
- Forget about hot tubs and sauna. When taking a bath, do not use a sponge as it injures your skin. After a bath or shower do not rub your skin with a towel, just pat it gently;
- Pay much attention to proper nutrition. However, there are no universal recommendations for all patients with allergic contact dermatitis. The main principle is to exclude from your diet such products which can cause cross-reaction with the allergens.
How to Treat Allergic Contact Dermatitis at Home
In the arsenal of traditional medicine there is a number of ways that are recommended for those having allergic dermatitis. For example, it is advised to lubricate the affected skin with apple or cucumber juice, sour cream, butter or make compresses of grated fresh potatoes. Also you can wash erosions with oak bark or St. John’s wort extract decoction. You can try drinking celery decoction.
But take into account that as with the majority of allergic diseases, treatment with folk remedies can significantly worsen your condition because most of the above listed recipes contain potential allergens, use of which can result in the most unpredictable and often dolorous effect. The second danger lies in the fact that many patients, carried away by such treatments, reduce or completely waive the classical drug therapy which is also extremely dangerous if you have allergic diseases. Keep in mind that only a specialist knows how to treat allergic contact dermatitis.
If you still feel an irresistible urge to apply some of the “everlasting” ways, don’t forget to consult with your doctor beforehand. After examination he or she will reveal the spectrum of allergens to which you react, and this will help to find out potentially hazardous “grandmother’s” recipes.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis Prognosis
If you are able to stop contacting with allergens you will completely cure the disease. It is more difficult when an allergic reaction develops to occupational allergens to which you are exposed during your labor activity. In this case it might be necessary to change the profession. But that can lead to social exclusion or even to personal tragedy.
Prevention of Allergic Contact Dermatitis
There is no primary prophylaxis aimed at preventing the development of the disease. Some doctors recommend paying attention to the material of jewelry you wear. It is preferable to choose oxidation resistant metals and avoid cheap alloys, particularly those containing nickel.
If you already have developed the allergic dermatitis, the prevention measures are aimed at stopping the development of exacerbations which basically means to end your contact with the allergen.