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New York , NY May 2006 – Your child has developed a red, itchy spot on her face, but you may be clueless as to the cause
Contact dermatitis – redness, swelling, itching and flaking of the skin – is the result of an allergen’s direct contact with the skin; the longer the substance remains on the skin oftentimes, the more severe the reaction.
Approximately 20% of all children at some time have contact dermatitis. Approximately 20-35% of healthy children react to one or more allergens on standard patch tests. Family history is also a good predictor. Children whose parents have contact dermatitis are 60% more likely to have positive patch test results.
“Since allergic reactions may not show up until several days after the initial exposure, the direct cause isn’t always clear-cut. One way to narrow the field is to look at the age of the child,” comments Joshua Fox, MD, dermatologist and founder of Advanced Dermatology and The Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery. Dr. Fox points out some of the typical irritants affecting children at various stages of development.
– Recent studies have shown that some diaper rashes may be caused by color dyes in diapers.
– The recent trend of piercing ears in infants may be the cause of nickel allergies.
– Constant exposure to saliva, from babies’ drooling, can cause irritations.
– Latex, which can also be an allergen, is found in pacifiers.
Toddlers and preschool children
– Starting to explore the outside world, this age group becomes more exposed to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.
– Nickel is one of the most common metals that cause contact dermatitis; it is the most frequent contact allergen in girls over the age of eight. Costume jewelry, belt buckles, wristwatches, zippers, snaps and hooks can contain nickel.
– Latex is present in rubber toys and balloons.
– May develop reactions from overexposure to soaps, creams, sunscreens and lotions.
– Nickel allergies may occur from body piercing.
– Permanent hair dye and dyes used in perfumes and cosmetics can cause reactions.
– Contact lens solutions contains mercury, which can cause irritations.
– Acrylates, used in the application of artificial nails and in eyeglass frames, can be skin allergens.
– Pine resins, a sticky material found in bowling balls, baseball bats and strings on musical instruments, can cause a reaction on the fingers and hands.
What to do? Dr. Fox suggests that if the irritation seems mild, to try home remedies:
– If you know what caused the inflammation, make sure your child avoids contact with it.
– Wash clothing and all objects that touched the allergen to prevent re-exposure.
– If your child is exposed to the allergen, immediately wash the affected area with soap and cool water.
– Apply cold, moist compresses for 30 minutes, three times a day to affected area.
– Relieve itching with OTC lotions – antihistamines, 1% hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, cool oatmeal baths and over the counter oral antihistamines.
If the inflammation doesn’t improve in a few days, or itching becomes unbearable, seek professional medical care. Dr. Fox explains, “A dermatologist can give your child a patch test to identify the specific cause of the contact dermatitis. After the allergens are identified, your physician will consult with you and your child on how to avoid the substances, specific substitute products that do not cause reactions, and possible medical interventions, such as immunotherapy shots and corticosteroids.”