Allergic Contact Dermatitis: Early Recognition and Diagnosis of Important Allergens

Sharon E. Jacob; Tace Steele


Dermatology Nursing. 2006;18(5):443-439, plus 4. 

In This Article


Glues and adhesives are other common allergens due to their widespread use as bonding agents, both in the home environment in personal products and in the occupational environment. The thought of adhesive use in arts and crafts seems par for the course, but glues are used to compound rubber to plastics and leathers in items such as in hair brushes, toothbrushes, sports balls, and sneakers.

Colophony is a tree sap resin whose inherent utility lies in its stickiness. It is commonly used as an adhesive for plaster products and flooring, and also to enable long-wearing cosmetics. Colophony is the substance that keeps the mascara and lipstick on the eyelashes and lips. Even adhesive bandages "stick" because of colophony (Karlberga, 1988). Colophony or rosin, as it is known to musicians of stringed instruments, is used to help the strings stick to the bow. Due to the prolonged contact of the instrumentalist and his or her instrument, professional musicians are actually at increased risk for an allergy to the rosin they use daily (Gambichler, Boms, & Freitag, 2004). Reactions to colophony often cause intense pruritus with a dermatitis usually limited to the area of direct contact. Cross reactions are possible with balsam of Peru and other "natural" resins.

Epoxy is a synthetic glue used in many plastic products. Due to the high heat resistance, epoxies are used for high-strength bonds in airplanes, automobiles, bikes, and boats (Wikipedia, 2005). Metal cans and containers are often coated with epoxy to retard rusting from acidic foods such as tomatoes (Howe, Borodinsky, & Lyon, 1998; Wikipedia, 2005). It is a common encasing for electrical wiring to protect cables from dust and humidity (Wikipedia, 2005). Epoxies are also used in eyeglass frames and hearing aides. Computer technicians and plastic workers are at higher risk for an allergy (Tarvainen, Kanerva, Jolanki, & Estlander, 1995). Artists, due to their high exposure to paints and lacquers, are also at high risk (Haz-Map, 2004).

Methylmethacrylate is a common constituent of dental fillings and dentures. Acrylates are also used in artificial joints and heart valves. Dentists, dental technicians, and orthopedic surgeons are all more likely to have an allergy to acrylates. There have even been acrylate allergies to acrylic nails and incontinency pads (Giroux & Pratt, 2002). Importantly, nitrile rubber gloves should be used in these allergic workers to prevent further exposure and sensitization.


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