Allergic dermatitis is a skin disease that can strike at any time, even at work. This is because in many professions one may get into contact with chemicals that trigger an allergic reaction. There are about 600 cases of dermatitis reported each year in Italy, a perhaps underestimated number says SIDAPA, the Italian Society of Allergic Dermatology regarding occupational and environmental factors. A trend was recently discovered due to the high number of new allergens, 172 recorded in the past eight years, including 119 cases that are related to dermatitis in the workplace.

Each year, just fewer than 20 new allergens are identified by scientific studies, 40% are common substances in the workplace and a third category of the list are ingredients used in cosmetics. These are some of the findings in the last congress of SIDAPA also dedicated to professional dermatitis.


Woman scratching her itchy chest


New allergens are discovered with reports of allergic dermatitis

“With the boom of the chemical industry this trend is likely to continue,” says Professor Marcello Monti, head of Dermatology at Humanitas hospital. “Among the thousands of new chemical compounds produced by the industry and then put on the market – he continues – some may be sensitizing or contain allergens. But these features will emerge only after the individual has come into contact with these substances”.

“For about 10 years now, after animal testing was rightly eliminated, one is not able to tell if a new chemical compound can cause allergic reactions on humans, it can be understood only when there are reported episodes of dermatitis”, says the professor.


Many professionals at risk of allergic dermatitis

Among the products on trial cosmetics and body care substances are in scrutiny: from hair dye products to nail polish to depilatory waxes everything must be taken into consideration. But there are also new emerging professions “at risk”. Carpenters and plumbers are at risk because of new glues and resins. Lottery sellers because of the dust of the scratch cards, and even health personnel because of the dust that settles on the skin from touching pills.

“Unlike those who work directly in the chemical industry and are properly protected with goggles, gloves, gowns and masks. Those who use these products often do not protect themselves, and are the most exposed. In some cases there is superficial protection, while in other cases not wearing protection such as gloves can contaminate the workplace”, says the specialist.


How to recognize a rash?

“The rash makes its appearance with itching and redness. To get a clear diagnosis and to identify the allergen responsible for the rash, the patient should consult a dermatologist. The patient will undergo the “patch-test” or skin tests and once identified, the allergen will be treated. Appropriate measures and steps will be taken to limit the patients’ contact with substances that cause dermatitis. Thanks to these principals one can control the risk of the allergic dermatitis becoming chronic, and thus there is no reason to worry excessively”, concludes Professor Monti.