Dermatitis for almost half of health care workers

female hands using hand sanitizer gel pump

A recent retrospective study of healthcare workers assessed in an Australian tertiary referral dermatology clinic showed that 49.7% had experienced allergic contact dermatitis

Associate Professor Rosemary Nixon AM, who helps run the fortnightly Occupational Dermatology Clinic at the Skin & Cancer Foundation Inc, says that Australian dermatologists have undertaken numerous studies to examine the frequency of allergic contact reactions

The Foundation assesses workers suspected of occupational dermatitis with patch testing.

“The major substances causing allergic contact dermatitis in healthcare workers are rubber glove chemicals, preservatives, excipients in hand cleansers and antiseptics,” says A/Prof Nixon.

“Dermatologists frequently treat patients who have experienced skin reactions to allergens. It is important to make a diagnosis of what is causing the problem and patch testing is used to diagnose allergic contact dermatitis.

“This includes allergy to ingredients found in certain types of goods, such as skincare products, fragrances, plants, jewellery, hair dyes, liquid soaps, shampoos, baby wipes and gloves.”

Several ingredients commonly found in goods include topical pharmaceuticals and methylisothiazolinone/methylchloroisothiazolinone, a preservative used in a variety of skin care products, which has recently caused a large number of reactions in Australia.

Other allergens include nickel, bufexamac, preservatives and p-phenylenediamine (used in hair dyes).

Dr Nixon says health professionals need to consider the likelihood of allergic reactions to substances touching the skin.

“Because the reactions are delayed, there may not be a clear-cut history relating exposure to an allergen and subsequent dermatitis.”


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