Latex, Nickel, And Other Skin Allergies
Terms To Know
Before continuing our discussion on skin-related allergies, I want to introduce you to some terms that you'll see again in this article.
Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction involving the whole body. It is a serious condition that should be treated as an emergency. It's not just dairy and tree nuts that can bring on anaphylaxis. Latex and insect bite allergies can often bring on this serious reaction in sensitive individuals.
Contact Dermatitis refers to any reaction that occurs on the skin when contact with irritants or allergens occurs. It usually manifests with redness, rashes or blistering. Nickel allergy and formaldehyde sensitivity are examples of contact dermatitis.
Atopic Dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that usually begins in the first few years of life. In children it can indicate a tendency toward asthma and/or allergic rhinitis (hay fever). It is characterized by itchy, dry skin, often with redness and blisters. Eczema is considered atopic dermatitis.
Urticaria is the fancy name for hives. These raised, red, itchy bumps of varying sizes appear in the shallow layers of the skin. They are caused by histamine being released from certain cells. Hives are most often an acute reaction to substances like latex or medications.
Angioedema is a deep swelling of the skin, similar to hives, but it occurs in deeper skin layers, often involving the face, tongue, extremities or genitalia. Angioedema commonly occurs in conjunction with hives as a reaction to one or more allergens or irritants.
What Causes It?
Latex is a natural substance derived from rubber trees. It is found in dozens of commonly used items and comes in both natural and synthetic forms, but most often it is the natural form that causes an allergic reaction. Products that often contain latex include:
- Rubber bands
- Shoe soles
Latex allergy can be incredibly serious or be a case of contact dermatitis, causing rashes, redness or urticaria in the affected areas. The most severe reactions occur in those who are already sensitized to natural latex and have been exposed before. Risk is also increased when moist or internal parts of the body are exposed to latex, such as in surgery. In such cases one may experience anaphylaxis, a "whole-body" allergic reaction that is often characterized by hives, shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, and in severe cases, death.
Latex allergy was a growing phenomenon in the 80s and 90s, but the number of sufferers seems to have leveled in recent years. Estimates are that 1 to 6 percent of the U.S. population is sensitized to latex. Among healthcare workers, that number increases to almost 10%. Approximately 220 cases of anaphylaxis and 3 deaths per year are attributed to latex allergy reactions.
If you suspect that you may have latex allergy, you should see your physician to be tested and to receive further instruction on precaution and care. As is the case with dust mites and other allergens, avoiding the offending allergen is the most effective way to stave off a reaction. Search for latex-free alternatives to the common products listed above, and be sure that those around you are aware of your allergy. Here are some latex-free alternatives that National Allergy offers:
|Latex-Free Gloves - Available in several sizes and styles, our latex-free gloves are an excellent alternative option. Use them at work or around the house. We also have cotton gloves that can be used alone or as liners for the vinyl gloves.|
|Latex-Free Masks - Did you know even the elastic straps and seals of many household masks contain latex? We've done our research to be sure that none of the masks we sell contain hidden latex.|
If you are highly allergic you may be at risk for anaphylactic reactions, and you should carry a portable epinephrine (adrenaline) injection in case of emergency. For more latex allergy resources, visit the American Latex Allergy Association website.
What Causes It?
Nickel is a naturally occurring element that, when in contact with the skin of allergic individuals, can cause such contact dermatitis reactions as angioedema, urticaria and itchy patches. If you are sensitive to nickel, you may initially feel a tingling and itchy feeling that within a day can progress into a rash or blisters. While there are no proven causes of nickel allergy, it is believed that sensitivity can be developed early in life with exposure to earrings or other jewelry.
Nickel allergy is the most common cause of contact dermatitis, leading a list that also includes substances like formaldehyde and Balsam of Peru. Also, nickel allergy is most common among women, likely because of greater exposure to the metal from jewelry. And, logically, the most common sites for nickel allergy are earlobes (see picture above), neck, and wrist where jewelry touches skin. Over 22 million women have nickel allergy, and that number is growing.
Obviously the best solution for preventing nickel reactions is to avoid items that contain nickel. The good news for those with nickel allergy is that there are new kits and products available for protecting the skin from nickel exposure. Our Nickel Solution Kit has both a nickel detection and protection solution.
With The Nickel Solution Kit
For more nickel allergy education, visit the Mayo Clinic informational pages.
What Causes It?
As mentioned, this is most commonly an atopic condition that can manifest as itchy rashes, blisters and sores. Sometimes, eczema can be more closely akin to contact dermatitis, producing localized reactions on the skin. Summer can be tough for those with dermatitis, as heat and sweating can really irritate these skin conditions. Here are some more eczema triggers:
- Wool and other itchy fabrics
- Soaps and shampoos
- Toiletries with harsh chemicals
- Emotional stress
- Dust mites
- Some foods
Approximately 35 million people in the United States are affected by eczema, many of whom are infants and young children. In fact, it is estimated that between 10 and 20 percent of all infants suffer from eczema. Some people grow out of eczema, but many times it can be a precursor for future allergic sensitivities to both food and environmental allergens.
Prevention & Relief
While eczema is a frustrating condition, there are ways to avoid flare-ups and find relief. Here are some products we recommend:
|DermaSmart clothing for sensitive skin is made from cool, quick-dry fabric to offer maximum softness and ultimate comfort. Tagless labels, seams that are flat and smooth, and an antimicrobial silver ion treatment all help break the itch/scratch cycle.|
|Proteque skin protection system moisturizes and heals cracked and damaged skin. This non-greasy formula helps to reduce inflammation and itching aa well as protect irritated skin from infection. It is safe for all ages and can be used on the entire body.|
|RegSor products were developed by dermatologists to provide safe, natural relief for anyone who suffers with skin irritation like itching, redness, scaling or flaking resulting from psoriasis, eczema, or dermatitis.|
For more specific information on eczema, visit our learning library.
Other Summertime Skin Precautions
Summer can be a rough time for your skin: mosquito bites, sun exposure, chapped lips and more. Here are some of our other summer skincare gems:
|Vanicream Sunscreen protects your skin from sun damage without harsh chemicals. Three choices give you protection from the burning UVB rays of the sun and also from skin-damaging UVA rays.
|Vanicream SPF30 Lip Balm gives long-lasting moisture when lips are dry due to weather (heat, cold, wind, or low humidity) or medications you may be taking. Lip Balm also provides protection from UVA/UVB rays.|
|Surgeon's Skin Secret One Step Manicure keeps your toes ready for sandal season without harsh chemicals. The gentle micro-dermabrasion from the sea salts and the luxuriant feel of the botanical oils will almost make you feel like you've been to a spa.|
|AQtiv Pure Alcohol-Free Sanitizer helps you control bacteria even when soap and water are not convenient. Since there is no alcohol in this sanitizer, it does not dry out your skin. Keep one in your purse, car, bookbag, lunchbox, and the kids' day camp bag.|
From this article, you can see that skin reactions can often be prevented or reduced by avoiding known irritants. In addition, when avoidance is not possible, there are other solutions to help bring relief. You can also see that there is a multitude of irritants that skin comes in contact with every day. Since it is the job of the skin to be a defense against infection, protecting the skin is an important part of maintaining good general health.