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Learn About Occupational Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Posted Feb 19 2012 4:34am 1 Comment

People with eczema know that controlling your eczema trigger is the key to controlling your condition. Many types of eczema are controlled simply by limiting or avoiding exposure to certain triggers. While you may be able to control your exposure in your home, it may be more difficult when you are at work. What if the only way you can earn money at work is to be exposed to your eczema trigger?

Occupational irritant contact dermatitis is a form of eczema that is triggered by exposure to an irritant in the work place. Contact dermatitis is typically red, inflamed, and itchy. It can also be quite painful. It normally occurs at the spot where the skin had direct contact with the irritant. However, it can spread from the initial point of contact, depending on how severe your exposure and reaction is.

There are more than 3000 known allergens and irritants that are known to cause eczema, but only 25 of these are responsible for most cases. People may have more than one trigger, but they are still able to limit their exposure and control flare ups. However, occupational irritant contact dermatitis occurs when you become increasingly sensitized to one irritant that you cannot avoid.

While you are working and exposed to the specific irritant, you will find that your eczema happens more often and more severely. At your first exposure, you may not even have a reaction. Overtime, the irritant will attack your skin through a skin weakness believed to exist in people susceptible to contact dermatitis. As the irritant begins to damage your skin your immune system recognizes the attack and releases chemicals to counteract the damage. Unfortunately, these chemicals are known to cause eczema at the point of contact. As you are exposed to the irritant overtime, you immune system will start to react more quickly and severely. This is called sensitization and it is why your condition will worsen the more you are exposed to your trigger.

Most occupational irritants are not among the 25 common triggers. This does not mean it will be difficult to identify your specific trigger. If you work around chemicals, hazardous materials, unusual metals, or if something regularly touches the afflicted skin then these are your primary suspects. For example, cleaning professionals are often irritated by cleaning solvents. Woodworkers react to certain varnishes. Beauty professionals often find that their trigger is nail varnish.

The first thing you should do is speak to your employer or safety representative. It is very likely that they have prior experience with this irritant. They may be able to recommend protective measures ideally suited for your work environment. They may even offer to help you pay for your protective gear. Always remember to keep your employer informed about the status of your eczema condition.

Next, you should take measures to protect yourself. Always wash your exposed skin regularly and practice good hygiene in order to remove irritants from the surface of your skin. Cover your exposed skin with gloves, aprons, hats, goggles, and any other protective gear. Be aware that rubber and latex may be an irritant to your eczema. Also, try to improve your skin’s barrier functions by applying lotions regularly such as aloe vera, oatmeal, and zinc based moisturizers.

When a flare up occurs, you will use normal treatment methods for irritant contact dermatitis. You will probably do better if you use both medical and natural therapies. You should also try long term methods to detoxify your system which will strengthen both your immune system and your skin.

It is unfair that in order to earn a living you must be exposed to the irritants or allergens causing your occupational contact dermatitis. The important things to remember when trying to control and prevent you condition is to keep your employer informed, protect your skin, and try to keep yourself otherwise healthy. If you identify your trigger, take extra precautions, and use a healthy treatment regiment then you should find your eczema occurs less frequently and heals more quickly.

To learn more about eczema and ways to treat eczema , check out Blake Helton’s excellent articles on the above mentioned sites.


Comments (1)
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Gloves are always a great preventative measure! Sometimes in cases I can't use gloves or otherwise cover up my skin to protect from irritants I use Tape Relief  (). You apply it like a lotion to any part of your skin and it creates a barrier of sorts to protect your skin from contact with allergens.
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