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How do you get Allergic Contact Dermatitis at Work?

You think you just developed rashes, but the doctor is saying the inflammation is caused by dermatitis. If the doctor is right, he still has to determine whether there is involvement of the immune system. Should it be identified that the substance you are allergic to is causing your immune system to release histamine, you will be treated with medications for curing allergic contact dermatitis (ACD).

Individuals suffering from ACD may have continuous or relapsing dermatitis. The dermatitis will persist for long if a person does not know the cause of his allergic reaction and at the same time is being exposed to this allergen continuously. For this reason, ACD is quite common among people who are exposed to chemical substances in the workplace.

The length of time that an individual is exposed to the allergen determines the treatment period.

Another Type of Dermatitis

The other type of dermatitis is called irritant contact dermatitis (ICD), so called because the skin area becomes irritated once the allergen comes into contact with it. The longer the contact is, the more the area becomes irritated. Note that the immune system is not involved so that the irritation is localized. Therefore, it is actually easy to determine whether the case is ICD or ACD. ACD inflamed a big part of the body whereas ICD affects only the area of contact.

Another difference between the two lies on the time it takes for the rash to appear. With ICD, the rash appears immediately upon contact with the allergen while ACD rash appears two or three days after contact.

Symptoms of ACD

The first indication that a person is suffering from ACD is the occurrence of lesion on the part where the skin has been exposed to the allergen. Different allergens cause different types of rashes. Some allergens can cause rashes that drain, ooze or crust. Others cause the skin to appear scaled, thickened or raw. Sometimes, the lesion doesn’t look like there’s rash, but rather, one can see vesicles, blisters, papules or there’s just reddening of the skin.

Common ACD Allergens

The doctor must determine which substances the patient is allergic to. The following is a list of allergens:

  • Chemical elements such as nickel, gold and chromium, the first two being present in jewelries, the third being used in leather tanning.
  • Cosmetic ingredients such as balsam of Peru, neomycin, cobalt chloride, quaternium-15 and methylchloroisothiazolinone.
  • Topical medicines such as Bacitracin, steroids, diphenhydramine and pramoxine.
  • Plant substances such as poison sumac, poison ivy, poison oak, and colophony.
  • Thimerosal which is an ingredient used in vaccines and local antiseptics.
  • The preservative formaldehyde
  • Metol used in photographic developers


ACD symptoms may last for a month before the case can be resolved completely. In most cases, people who have developed allergic reaction to a certain substance will stay allergic to it for the rest of their lives. Symptoms will appear once more when the skin is exposed to the same allergen again. It would be best for the victim to stop working in a place where the allergen is present even if that means having to change one’s job.

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