Does your skin react to Band-Aid and other tapes and plasters?
Then you might not be the only one experiencing this, and the good news is that there are many proven ways you can help protect your skin from damage.
Continue reading to learn more about adhesive bandages and tapes “allergies.”
What Exactly Is an Allergy to Adhesive Bandages?
It’s important to note that an “allergy” to adhesive bandages is usually not an actual allergic reaction involving the immune system. Instead, the skin reaction is often classified as irritant contact dermatitis caused by contact with the chemicals in the adhesive.
While some individuals may be allergic to specific adhesive ingredients, such as latex, the reaction is usually less common.
Those with a latex allergy can experience an allergic reaction to adhesives containing latex, resulting in serious symptoms, including anaphylaxis. The post below will focus on some of the queries around common irritant contact dermatitis.
What Are the Symptoms?
Adhesive bandages and tapes can cause contact reactions that manifest differently. These reactions can occur quickly or gradually worsen over time. Some of the signs and symptoms include:
The affected area usually corresponds to the shape of the adhesive used and does not extend beyond it. Different individuals may experience varying degrees of reaction severity, with some experiencing mild redness and itching. In contrast, others may develop raised, blistered skin that can last for days or weeks after removing the adhesive.
Examples of severe reactions include open, crusted sores on the cheeks after using adhesive tape during anesthesia.
How to Diagnose an Allergic Reaction to Bandages
You may have an allergic reaction if you consistently experience a rash under adhesive bandages or tapes. Seeking a doctor’s diagnosis is recommended if symptoms are severe or bothersome.
A primary care doctor, dermatologist, allergist, or immunologist can all make a diagnosis. During an appointment, the doctor will either examine your symptoms or ask about their severity and try to determine what’s causing them.
Bringing used Band-Aids or other materials that may have caused the reaction can be helpful. A patch test may be performed on the back to identify the allergen triggering the reaction. Allergic contact dermatitis from adhesives is less common than irritant contact dermatitis.
How Adhesives and Bandages Allergy is Treated
If you have an allergic reaction to a bandage or adhesive tape, removing the bandage will usually reduce symptoms. However, you can help alleviate the itching and promote the healing of the rash.
Over-the-counter anti-itch creams and lotions, such as calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, can be used. A health practitioner may prescribe a more potent anti-inflammatory cream if the rash is severe or over-the-counter options don’t work.
Taking antihistamines, like Benadryl, can also help reduce itching. Moisturising the affected area, avoiding scratching the rash, using a cool compress, and taking an oatmeal bath can also provide relief.
Other Alternatives to Common Bandage Adhesives
If you are allergic to traditional bandage adhesives, there are alternative options and ways to safeguard yourself. Some alternatives you can try include skin barrier film, hypoallergenic tapes such as cloth surgical or paper tape, and gauze.
Skin barrier film creates a shield between your skin and the bandage and can be removed with soap and water. However, it should not be applied to your face or directly on a wound.
Hypoallergenic tape can be purchased online as elastic tubular bands of different sizes and for various body parts. Simply cut a piece of gauze and place it over the wound before securing it with the band.
How to Address Adhesives Allergies After Surgical Dressings
If you suspect that you have an allergy to adhesive bandages, it is essential to inform your surgeon before your surgery. They may be able to use a different type of dressing to cover your surgical wound.
After your surgery, if you notice a rash, inform your doctor immediately. Although most rashes after surgery are harmless and disappear within a few days of removing the dressing, they could indicate a more severe problem.
Therefore, it is vital to seek medical advice promptly to ensure that you receive appropriate treatment if necessary.
How Contact Dermatitis From Adhesive Bandages Is Treated
If you experience a reaction to an adhesive bandage, it is essential to remove it carefully without causing any damage to the skin.
After removal, clean the affected area to remove any remaining adhesive and apply a moisturiser like Epaderm, which is eczema-friendly. Avoid scratching the affected area, and use a cold compress to alleviate itching.
If the skin is broken or the reaction worsens, it is best to seek advice from your pharmacist or doctor. You may require additional treatment, such as a topical steroid cream or antibiotics if the skin becomes infected.
For severe reactions or if you are having trouble finding a safe alternative product, consider a referral to a dermatologist for skin patch testing to determine the specific cause of your skin reaction.
Practical Tips for Avoiding Skin Reactions From Adhesive Bandages and Tapes
One essential tip to take away is always to carry a “safe” adhesive plaster or bandage in your purse or bag. This will help you get well-prepared in case of an injury. You must also inform those around you of any history of skin reactions to adhesive plasters or bandages.
Below are some common scenarios requiring essential caution when dealing with an adhesive allergy.
Childcare and School
For those who have kids, ensure you inform their caregivers or school of this reaction. Further, you can suggest some of the safe products to your child’s teacher or school nurse.
Sometimes, the teacher or school nurse may be too busy to remember your caution for your child’s allergic reaction. Therefore, you can train your child to speak up for themselves about the allergy, thus ensuring first-hand addressing of the situation.
Vaccinations Or Blood Tests
Another scenario where you need to remember to inform a professional healthcare giver of your allergic reactions is during injections or blood tests. You can hold the cotton wool or gauze on the site until you stop bleeding.
Further, you can also bring your personal safe, sensitive products during such visits. If you find yourself with the adhesive tape applied, ensure you remove it immediately.
Ensure your primary health provider keeps a medical record of your reaction towards adhesive tapes or bandages.
This will allow them to record an “allergy alert” that will enable you to receive hypoallergenic products while you are a patient. Inform the professionals if you have previously experienced a negative reaction to a certain kind of tape.
If you have sensitive skin, you might also be interested in choosing the most suitable sunscreen for sensitive skin, eczema, or allergies. As we have seen the adhesives used in bandages might cause allergic reactions to some people.
The most frequent reaction, however, is irritating contact dermatitis, which is not a real allergic reaction. Most adhesive bandage-related rashes are treatable at home, but if the rash hurts, blisters, or you experience additional symptoms like a fever or shortness of breath, you should consult a doctor.