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Plaster allergies

Rash on woman's arm cause by an allergy to plasters
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An adhesive allergy is a common but treatable allergy. It happens when you are allergic to the sticky part of plasters or medical dressings. You may not notice an allergic reaction until a few days later.

Symptoms of an adhesive allergy can include a rash, itchiness and dry skin. You can treat an adhesive allergy using over-the-counter products from your pharmacy.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • What causes an adhesive allergy?
  • Adhesive allergy symptoms
  • Treatment for adhesive allergy
  • Alternatives to standard plasters

What causes an adhesive allergy?

An adhesive allergy happens when you are allergic to ingredients like acrylate or methyl acrylate. These are what make plasters sticky.

Examples of methyl acrylates include 2-hydroxyethyl acrylate and ethyl acrylate. Acrylates are also found in acrylic or artificial nails, so if you are allergic to those, you’re likely to be allergic to the adhesive on plasters.

You can also be allergic to other plaster components, such as latex. Latex is a natural type of rubber that gives the plaster its elasticity.

If you’re allergic to adhesive, you might experience dermatitis symptoms when using some plasters. Two types of dermatitis can happen from an adhesive allergy: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis.

 Type of dermatitis Cause Examples of cause
Irritant contact dermatitis Substances that irritate skin cells Soap, detergent, antiseptics
Allergic contact dermatitis Allergens can lead to a delayed skin reaction, so you might not feel the symptoms until a day or two after exposure Perfumes, plants like poison ivy, chemicals in make-up, latex, metals that contain nickel

 

Dermatitis can go away by itself, but sometimes the symptoms can persist. You can use treatments from your pharmacy, like emollients, moisturisers and topical steroids.

You don’t need to see a doctor to treat dermatitis unless the symptoms are not going away. Find your nearest LloydsPharmacy and speak to a pharmacist today on how to treat a plaster allergy.

Adhesive allergy symptoms

Adhesive allergy symptoms can happen immediately on contact or a day or two after. Your skin can become:

  • Dry or irritated
  • Itchy
  • Inflamed, reddened or darker
  • Thickened

You may also see a rash or blisters on your skin, sometimes releasing fluid. Your skin will typically only be affected where the adhesive has made contact with it.

Irritant and allergic contact dermatitis are often temporary and eventually resolve on their own or with treatment.

If you have a condition like eczema or psoriasis, dermatitis may cause a flare-up of symptoms. If you notice these symptoms, remove the plaster or bandage immediately. You can treat an adhesive allergy with medication from the pharmacy. If your symptoms are severe, speak to your doctor. This includes any sign of infection or if you feel generally unwell.

Treatment for adhesive allergy

Before treating the allergy, remove the plaster or bandage causing it. If you have a wound that needs a dressing, use an alternative that will not irritate your skin.

Emollients treat dermatitis by moisturising your skin. Emollients replace the water lost in dry skin and provide a protective coating to prevent further water loss. It’s important to use emollients frequently. This includes after showers, washing your hands and whenever you notice your skin is dry. You can also use certain emollients instead of soap to wash your hands.

Various emollients provide your skin with a different amount of moisture. These include:

  • Ointments – very thick and greasy (for extremely dry skin)
  • Lotions – water-based with the least amount of oil (such as calamine lotion)
  • Creams – more hydrating than a lotion but not as greasy as an ointment

You may need a topical corticosteroid if your skin is red and irritated. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation effectively but should only be used for a short course.

Your pharmacist can recommend an over-the-counter topical corticosteroid, like hydrocortisone. Stronger corticosteroids will need a prescription from the doctor.

You can also take antihistamines to relieve the itchy symptoms of a plaster allergy. Antihistamines can be bought over the counter. Some antihistamines, like chlorphenamine, can make you feel drowsy. Most one-a-day options, like cetirizine or loratadine, are non-drowsy.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, speak to your doctor to discuss suitable allergy treatment.

Alternatives to standard plasters

You can use a few products as an alternative to standard plasters. Look for options that say ‘low adhesive allergy’ on the box. You can also try using:

  • Non-adhesive dressings – like gauze swabs and hypoallergenic tape
  • A skin barrier film before applying a plaster – this creates a barrier between the adhesive and your skin
  • Options designed for sensitive skin

A suitable alternative also depends on the type of wound you’re trying to cover up. Speak to your pharmacist to find out the best option you can use.

A final note on plaster allergies

An adhesive allergy can be frustrating, especially when it doesn’t seem to disappear. Fortunately, adhesive allergies are treatable with emollients and topical corticosteroids. The symptoms should resolve within days to weeks.

Alternatives to adhesive plasters are also available at your nearest LloydsPharmacy. For more advice and tips about skincare and dermatitis treatment, check out our helpful skin conditions advice.

References

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cod.12647
www.gosh.nhs.uk/conditions-and-treatments/conditions-we-treat/latex-allergy
www.nhs.uk/conditions/contact-dermatitis/causes
www.nhs.uk/conditions/contact-dermatitis/symptoms
www.nhs.uk/conditions/contact-dermatitis/treatment