What is Contact Dermatitis?
Contact dermatitis is characterized by an itchy inflamed rash that can occur anywhere on the body. It is caused by an allergic reaction to a substance that comes into contact with the skin.
As more fitness enthusiasts turn to wearable technology to track their jogs, workouts and vital signs, the risk of contact dermatitis can become an issue.
The professional dermatologists at San Diego’s newest dermatology clinic North County Dermatology Center, who themselves wear these fitness devices, are here to help.
Dr. Margaret Hobson Dupree and Dr. David Thomas are the center’s dermatologists who combined, have over 40 years of dermatology experience. Both received their medical degrees from the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md. They have strong ties to the San Diego area, including Dr. Thomas’ background as Director of Medical Services and Chief of the Medical Staff at the Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton.
Dermatologists have noticed an uptick in the number of contact dermatitis cases related to fitness bracelets or watches that keep track of various health and workout metrics.
“That market has exploded and they are great tools for helping reach fitness goals,” Dr. Dupree said. “But as far as skin issues go, they can also cause people some problems.”
Some consumers wearing 24-hour fitness tracking wristbands have developed contact dermatitis, a red itchy rash caused by an allergy. These types of reactions are developing in response to various materials in the wrist bands including nickel in the metal, as well as rubber and rubber accelerants used in the casings and clasps of these types of devices.
“People may not realize that one of the most common forms of contact dermatitis is a metal allergy,” Dr. Thomas said. “Nickel is the most prevalent of all metal allergens and is found in many household items.”
Most metals contain some amount of nickel, with costume jewelry and cell phones among the leading causes of allergic reactions.
The affected skin becomes itchy, red and can become, over the course of a few days to a week or more, scaly and inflamed and sometimes even blister.
Allergic reaction skin rashes often require evaluation and treatment by a board-certified dermatologist who can determine the source of the rash and recommend the best treatment.
“There are two ways to prevent a rash caused by contact dermatitis,” Dr. Dupree said. “Stop wearing the device, wear the device more loosely around the skin, or put a barrier between the product and the skin, such as a gauze pad or clear nail polish.”
Dr. Thomas and Dr. Dupree say there are simple, effective treatments for contact dermatitis. They include:
• Over-the-counter and prescription topical corticosteroids
• Systemic corticosteroids (given orally or by injection) rarely for severe rashes
• Moisturizers, particularly creams that provide more persistent moisturizing effects than lotions, for preventing further dryness and irritation
“We want people to know that when they see a red rash occurring on the wrist or arm to realize that they could be experiencing an allergic reaction,” Dr. Thomas said. “Ignoring it and hoping it goes away on its own can make the problem become progressively worse.”
Additional information about contact dermatitis and allergic skin reactions can be found by visiting the American Academy of Dermatology, www.aad.org.
Contact North County Dermatology Center at (760) 230-2805 or visit northcountyderm.com to schedule an appointment or for more information on contact dermatitis.