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Allergic contact dermatitis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About allergic contact dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis is an allergic skin condition which may persist throughout life. It is caused by contact of the body with certain allergens. This condition is also called ‘eczema’.

Allergic contact dermatitis: Incidence, age and sex

Allergic contact dermatitis is quite a frequent occurrence in all age groups of people. No sex predilection has been noted.

Signs and symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis: Diagnosis

The clinical features usually appear two to three days after exposure to the allergens. Skin rash accompanied with variable intensity of itching is seen. Sometimes these rashes may swell and are called papules. Infrequently, blisters are formed which may burst open to form crusts over skin surface. Recurrent attacks of allergic reactions may cause darkening and roughening of skin. Hands and feet are the most commonly affected sites.

Causes and prevention of allergic contact dermatitis

Several factors including genetic predisposition and environmental causes may be responsible for this condition. It is seen more frequently in children who have a family history of allergic problems, thus pointing towards a genetic role. Occupational role cannot be ruled out. Factory workers working in dye industries and medical personnel are quite prone to such allergies. The following are specific allergens that might cause allergic contact dermatitis:

  • Nickel- It is present in zippers, hooks, and jewellery
  • Chromate- It is a component of shoe leather
  • Rubber- It is found in surgical gloves, balloons
  • Certain plants
  • Some topical antibiotics
  • Other products like soaps, lotions, dyes, perfume may also act as allergens which are otherwise quite harmless.

Allergic contact dermatitis: Complications

The skin rashes and blisters may be susceptible to a secondary infection leading to the occurrence of fever and palpitations. Repeated attacks of allergic reactions may play havoc with the skin appearance which may become darker and coarser.

Allergic contact dermatitis: Treatment

Clinical history and physical examination during an acute allergic reaction may lead to the diagnosis. The skin specialist may suggest a ‘patch test’ to find causative allergen or allergens. In this test, small patches of suspected allergens are placed over the skin for 48 hours to look for any occurrence of rash. This test is not comprehensive enough to uncover all the allergens a person might be exposed to.

Allergic contact dermatitis cannot be cured but it can be prevented and treated effectively. It is always better to avoid or wear protective gear while coming in contact with a known allergen. Wash the body part with ample water to remove any traces of irritant. Allergic skin rashes may be treated with steroidal ointments or anti-allergic medications. Skin should be kept moist and perfumed soaps, talc and lotions should be avoided.