Adhesive Bandages Causing Irritant or Allergic Contact Dermatitis

The use of medical adhesive supplies has been a big help in the care of patients. These are used in inpatient and outpatient medicine. During a hospitalization, adhesive tapes are commonly used to anchor and secure an intravenous line. It is also used to hold bandages and dressings in place. New improvements have been made with adhesive supplies and they now come in a wide range of uses for patient care. How can one fathom a world without the invention of medical adhesives? Medical adhesive supplies have been very popular nowadays but only few reports have proven allergic contact dermatitis to have occurred with the use of these. You may have heard a person claiming an allergic reaction from the use of a certain medical tape brand but only a few written research has proven it to be true. A lot of medical experts and brands claim that this issue is not due to an allergic reaction but caused by an irritant contact reaction.

What is A Contact Dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis are classified into two subtypes—the irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis.

Irittant contact dermatitis is a non-allergic type. It results from direct reaction to rubbing, friction or excessive exposure to a chemical agent. It is confined only to the area of exposure. Symptoms include pruritus and burning sensation on the skin affected. This type of dermatitis is evident within minutes or few hours at most. Duration may be very short to very chronic. The skin reaction depends on the skin condition of the sufferer or time of exposure to the irritant. Skin may also be vulnerable due to maceration and from excessive humidity. Exposures to water, heat, cold, pressure and friction aggravates the situation. Thin skin parts of the body are more reactive than the thick skin parts of the body. You will notice that skin tends to be more sensitive on thin skin parts.

Allergic contact dermatitis is also known as contact eczema or inclusional dermatitis which results when an allergen comes into contact with a previously sensitized skin. According to the National Institures of Health. The initial allergic reaction from a medical adhesive material may be quite mild and, in some cases, the reaction to the allergen may be severe with repeated exposures. Whether a person claims that an adhesive tape causes allergic or irritant symptoms, the use of the product should be avoided. In some people, a reaction may resemble a burn—appearing red, rashed, irritated and may have maceration. Initial reactions may be itchiness associated with a rash that can be mild to severe. This skin irritation or reaction are one of the many reasons why some patients consciously remove an intravenous line without the nurse or doctor’s approval. In severe cases of skin reaction, there can be blisters or an open would that may pose a risk for infection. Scratching the area may cause the skin to more complications.

What To Do?

Patients who experience itchiness or irritation on the site, should report the symptoms immediately to the medical practitioner. This should be done as soon as possible in order for the medical practitioner to have an immediate plan of care. The first thing to do is for the medical practitioner to remove the medical adhesive in order to halt the irritant or allergic material from causing further symptoms. The affected area should be cleansed with a mild soap and water to remove any residue. This should be done especially for medicated adhesives. For this matter, the cause of the allergy or irritant may not be the adhesive itself but the medication embedded on the adhesive.

To prevent this from happening again, total avoidance of the use of the type or brand of adhesive should be done as there are many other available adhesive supplies in the market to choose from. Never try to stick to a certain irritating bandage for it will only repeat the symptoms. In the event that all types of medical adhesives causes an unusual reaction, then self-adhering gauzed should be used instead to cover a site with the tape being placed only against the gauze and not the skin itself.


Treatment for allergic contact dermatitis due to the use of adhesive bandages or tapes can be managed by over the counter antihistamines or corticosteroid creams. Having the site assessed by a doctor would be best to better know the situation if it really need some allergic medicines or not. Exposure to an irritant can also cause burn-like symptoms. It may be red for mild cases but can be dark or black in color in severe burn-like cases. Also, in cases wherein there are signs or symptoms of infection, an immediate treatment of topical antibiotics should be prescribed after careful assessment of the affected site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *