Dealing with Irritant Contact Dermatitis & Medical Adhesives

Whether securing an intravenous line, holding a dressing in place, or protecting a scar, there is generally a need for an adhesive tape. Patients who experience discomfort, burning, redness, and in severe cases blistering, may either have an allergy to medical adhesives or be experiencing Irritant Contact Dermatitis. Recognizing the difference and administering proper treatment as well as prevention is vital when dealing with patients who experienced sensitivity to adhesives.

What is Irritant Contact Dermatitis (ICD)?

Irritant Contact Dermatitis is a form of contact dermatitis, in which the skin is injured from direct reaction to rubbing, friction, environmental factors such as cold, over-exposure to water, or chemicals such as acids, alkalis, detergents, adhesives and solvents. It may present itself within minutes or hours and duration may be very short to very chronic. Patients skin reaction depend on skin condition or time of exposure to the irritant. Contact dermatitis does not involve an allergic reaction & almost 80 percent of all contact dermatitis is the irritant type. Reactions are more prevalent on the thin and often sensitive skin of very young and elderly. There is less chance of a reaction on thick skin areas of the body. Thick skin is only found in areas where there is a lot of abrasion – fingertips, palms and the soles of your feet. Thin skin parts of the body such as the face, back of hand, and arms are more reactive and tend to be more sensitive.

What is Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD)?

Allergic Contact Dermatitis is the result of the irritating substance triggering an immune response within the body that causes a reaction at the point of skin contact. Allergic contact dermatitis is a lot less common than Irritant contact dermatitis. Many different substances can cause allergic contact dermatitis and these allergens generally presents itself as redness, swelling and water blisters, from tiny to large. The blisters may break, forming crusts and scales. Untreated, the skin may darken and become leathery and cracked. Materials like nickel, latex, rubber, dyes, and even plants such as poison ivy are the most common allergens.

What to do When Patients Experience Allergic or Contact Dermatitis.

First and most important thing to do a medical adhesive or dressing is causing a skin reaction is to remove the bandage or tape. Then we recommend cleansing the area with mild soap and water to removed an possible residue left from the adhesive. When possible leave the area uncovered to get air. If a bandage is necessary, covering the area with sterile gauze and applying a latex free, non-reactive tape to the gauze rather than the skin prevents further irritation. For a severe reaction that may be allergic it is often necessary to utilize an over-the-counter antihistamines or corticosteroid cream. If the skin begins to blister or if the redness is spreading, it is important to seek a medical professional with experience in skin reactions.

Prevention and Treatment

Good skin care is one way to ward off contact dermatitis. By strengthening your skin and adopting practices by which the skin is not put under any unneeded stress, one may increase the bodies natural defenses against various incarnations of dermatitis.

When selecting a soap or body wash, be sure to read the ingredients and choose one that is void of perfumes and dye. Keep showers and baths relatively short and avoid very hot water. Skin is especially soft post shower or bath, so dabbing off the moisture rather than wiping is preferred. After drying off applying a high quality skin moisturizer that does not contain alcohol, dyes or perfumes can keep skin elastic.

Diet, hydration, and exercise all play an important part in skin health. Drinking water is one of the best things you can do to keep skin moist and elastic from the inside. Replacing sugar with nutrient dense foods like fruit, vegetables and healthy sources of Omega-3. Healthy fats found in fish, nuts, avocado, and olive oil have anti-inflammatory properties. There are lots of great resources available online for creating a diet plan that works for you.

Regular exercise increases blood flow and provides oxygen and nutrients to working cells throughout the body, including the skin. Outdoor exercise however requires proper protection from the sun (read more about scar protection in the sun).

It is important to ask and inform if a skin condition is present or begins to present itself. A medical professional can advise and monitor when any form of dermatitis appears. With their advise, there are several over the counter creams, sprays, and medications that can help. Patch testing by a dermatologist can alert patients to which substances to avoid.

However, in cases where a bandage or wound is present, they may not be an option.

Choosing a tape and dressing that is gentle on the skin, is waterproof, and protects from the sun can speed up recovery and allow one to live a richer and more active lifestyle. Hy-Tape has been a leader in the field of patient care with regard to thinning, sensitive, and irritated skin. Hy-Tape is waterproof, which keeps dressings from having to be changed. Less dressing changes means less pulling off of adhesives and in-turn is less stressful on the skin. The adhesive in Hy-Tape contains zinc oxide, which in some cases may have a soothing effect on skin and while Hy-Tape holds firm, it releases gently. If you or someone you know has a chronic wound, the need to protect a scar, or an ostomy, please contact us for a sample and if you have any questions the team at Hy-Tape is always available to help.

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