The UK P&I Club has issued an advisory on contact dermatitis, which it defines as ‘a type of eczema caused by the skin coming into contact with a particular substance, triggering an allergic or irritant reaction’.
When contact dermatitis symptoms do occur, it says, they can develop within minutes to hours of exposure and can include the following red rash and itching (which may be severe), dry cracked scaly skin, bumps and blisters – sometimes with oozing and crusting, and swelling, burning or tenderness.
Sophia Bullard, Crew Health Director, comments: “There are two types of contact dermatitis, irritant and allergic.
1. Irritant contact dermatitis – the most common type and causes inflammation from exposure to a substance that directly damages the outer layer of skin. Rashes tend to come on quickly in response to irritating substance. Common irritants are soaps, bleach and detergents, solvents and regular contact with water.
2. Allergic contact dermatitis – occurs when in contact with a substance, which causes your skin to react. It affects the area which came into contact with the allergen and can sometimes take several dates after exposure for the rash to develop. Common allergens include metals (like nickel), cosmetic products, chemicals or paint products, fragrances and preservatives. It can also be triggered by fluids entering the body such as via foods, flavourings and medicines.
“The best way to prevent contact dermatitis is to avoid contact with the allergens or irritants. Once identified, symptoms can improve and may even clear up.
“Wearing protective clothing, gloves, face masks, goggles, or other protective items can shield skin from irritating substances, while application of barrier cream or gel can provide a protective layer for your skin.
“Washing your skin or using mild fragrance-free soap after coming into contact can remove the allergic substance, and regular application of moisturising lotions can help restore the skin’s outermost layer and keep skin supple.
“If these treatments do not work, medical advice can be sought out, including the use of emollients to stop the skin from becoming dry, corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation, antihistamines to relieve itching, and antibiotics to fight a bacterial infection.”