Allergic contact dermatitis is a delayed reaction of the skin to a particular allergen.  Skin reactions often resemble eczema with intense itching and redness.   However, with continued exposure to the culprit allergen, blisters and/or thickened skin may result.  Reactions may occur quickly, as soon as within 24 hours, or as late as 6 to 7 days after exposure.  Skin reactions are usually at and around the site of contact.  Therefore hands, eyelids and around the eyes, around the mouth and lips, scalp, neck, feet and wrists may be involved depending on the contact offender.  These are body areas where common allergens often come into contact: i.e., hands in the workplace, lip products/makeup(eyes), goggles, hair color/products, rubber in socks and shoes, cheap jewelry necklaces, watches. In the worst case scenario, an ingested contact allergen may cause a diffuse rash:  these include metals, such as nickel and cobalt, or fragrances, such as Balsam of Peru, preservatives, such as formaldehyde and/or medications, such as tetracycline.

As in eczema, it is important to identify and eliminate exposure to contact allergies to prevent permanent skin scarring.  NIM is now offering the TRUE (thin-layer rapid-use epicutaneous test).  This simple procedure tests for 35 of the most common contact allergens in the world.  It includes chemicals in personal care products, cleaning products, metals, rubbers, plastics, glues, preservatives in vaccines, medications and topical medications.  It is a pre-treated patch that is applied to the skin (no needles) and read by a technician after 48 and 72 hours.   If you are concerned that you are reacting to something in your everyday life, be sure to ask your practitioner for a patch test today.

Denise M. Kearney, MD, MS