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Author: Subject: Contact dermatits/allergies
uchiacon
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Contact dermatits/allergies

Hey guys,

I've got this nasty bout of contact dermatitis I have acquired in the last year. My mum, being a nurse, thinks it is due to the chemicals I have come in contact with in my laboratory. She thinks it has caused some kind of allergic hypersensitivity to things I could would come in contact with that would now cause rashes.

The reaction I get is annoying eczema sometimes behind my knees and always on the joint of my elbow, on the bony inside part of the wrist, and along the radius bone on both arms. I sometimes scratch it raw in places, and scabs develop, skin becomes flakey, etc etc rather bitchy.

The chemicals I have in my garage I try to avoid contacting, and even if I do contact the strong alkali's, I will wash them off if they get into my gloves or on my arm.

I have rather simple chemical compounds; nitric/hydrochloric/sulfuric acids, sodium carbonate, and other pretty simple inorganic compounds(including K nitrate, barium, K chlorate; and a few other inorganic pyrotechnic compounds). I do not commonly contact solvents as I practically never use them, but if I do, it's either acetone or meths.
I had some hexamine from a while ago, but I got rid of that, and I was handling ALL of these mainly inorganic compounds about a year before this showed up.

My mum is irritating me by saying that these chemicals could have triggered this heightened immune response to practically everything, causing these rashes. I think otherwise, as this dermatitis showed up quite a while after I had been using all these chemicals; I hadn't acquired any new ones before this dermatitis happened. She thinks it's the chemistry hobby. I don't think that these rather simple inorganic salts and compounds could cause long term hypersensitivity and allergies.

What do you guys think? I know some metals can cause dermatitis, but I took a 5 month break from chemistry and it still didn't leave. So far, I've had it for close to two years.

Could some of the inorganics I've handled with gloves(possibly contacting them with my skin)have caused this permanent hypersensitivity? For months? Or would it have to be ongoing exposure???

Any info on this would be great guys. Experiences, advice etc.

Cheers

"If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared."

Before you find youself cheering for a new regulation, consider your reaction if you were to be on the receiving end.
woelen

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Sulphuric acid, nitric acid, hydrochloric acid and the corresponding potassium and sodium salts (sulfates, nitrates and chlorides) cannot cause these allergic reactions. These are so common that everyone will encounter them (e.g. in food).

I also am quite confident that simple K2CO3, Na2CO3, KClO3 and NaClO3 also cannot cause such grieve as you experience. The same is true for carbon and sulphur. The inorganics which can give a lot of trouble in sensitive people are dichromates, chromates, cobalt salts, nickel salts and to a lesser extent other transition metal salts. Also very bad are lead salts, antimony-based chemicals and of course arsenic-based chemicals. I mention the lead and antimony things because they sometimes are used in pyrotechnics although to a lesser extent.

My wife also experienced this kind of allergy and sometimes her hands were even covered with loose skin and were painful. She has had a thorough scan for all kinds of compounds and in her case it appeared to be perfumes (from shampoo, soap, dish washing), skin of oranges, kiwi's and some other fruits, and chromium based compounds. Now that we know what causes the irritation we can perfectly handle it and keep things under control. I suggest that you also ask for a thorough scan. You will be treated with plasters, which are put on your skin for an hour or so and these plasters contain all kinds of substances. In this way things can be narrowed down.

The skin reactions can sometimes be very strange. My wife can better treat her skin with 30% HCl and leave that on the skin for 1 minute than take baby fragrance oil and put that on her skin. If her skin comes in contact with e.g. conc. HCl, then of course after a somewhat longer exposure she experiences mild irritation (like everyone does), while even very brief exposure to baby oil causes severe blistering, peeling of skin and sometimes even completely loosing of skin within a few hours, such that sometimes uncovered open and painful wounds can be observed! For her, baby oil is more aggressive than fuming nitric acid!

[Edited on 1-10-10 by woelen]

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Rogeryermaw
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i agree with woelen. i spent years in the automotive industry and was in constant contact with gasoline, oils, strong solvents of various types, HCl for cleaning aluminum, battery acid, antifreeze, silicone sealants(releasing acetic acid) and exhaust fumes to name a small portion of the crap i was immersed in for over ten years and sufered only the occasional bout with dry skin which always cleared up fairly quickly.

may be a shot in the dark here but i would look for changes in your life routines. new detergents, shampoo, soap, and perhaps other things in your daily environment that may have changed in the last couple of years. i also agree with him in that you should have a comprehensive allergy test done to narrow your possibilities down. i also occasionally suffer from a bout of itching that will cause me to scratch myself raw but this has gone on since before i ever became involved in chemistry. personally i suspect the occasional spider bite or related incident.

worth bearing in mind though, is that humans are weird creatures and can sometimes develop an allergy to things they do not regularly come in contact with and for no apparent reason.

if you have taken a break from your chems and gotten no relief then they are not likely the suspect but until you are tested you honestly can't rule anything out. are you employed? perhaps something in your workplace? i have done many many things in my life occupationally and i will tell you if you are exposed to certain types of dust(eg. fiberglass insulation) that can cause horrid discomfort.

[Edited on 1-10-2010 by Rogeryermaw]

entropy51
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I have to agree with woelen and Roger that the culprit is most likely some common everday substance such as laundry detergent or bath soap,

That is, if it is indeed contact dermatitis.

You didn't mention whether you have seen a dermatologist during the two years that this has bothered you ! If you haven't, you probably should. I think your scratching the itch could be a large part of the problem and a dermatologist could recommend something to relieve the itch and break the cycle.
Mr. Wizard
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Possibilities include allergies to soaps, clothing detergents, softeners put in laundry and driers, and anything you touch on a daily basis. I am particularly sensitive to some fabric softeners and adhesives that hold electrode patches to your skin. and Watch for material you get on your fingernails and introduce into your skin by scratching.

I don't know where you live, but could the water supply be contaminated with solvents? Try a week or two of washing with just water, and using soap on only 'the pits', with no shampooing.

Good luck on finding the cause.

Other more serious possibilities include auto immune disorders.
zed
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You are describing the symptoms of scabies. Very itchy, hard to shake.

Other possibilities, Chlamydial infection, psoriasis.

Assume nothing. See a COMPETENT dermatologist.

Have to admit though, that devilish cases of contact dermatitis can break out, after chemical exposure. Formaldehyde is a common culprit.

It's a sensitizer. It can start you, to having a multitude of allergy problems. Even make you environmentally ill.....Allergic to almost everything.

Used to happen a lot, to folks that worked in newly constructed "sealed" buildings.

New Plywood, Carpets, Paints, ETC......Out-gas lots of toxic chemicals, that accumulate in the recycled atmosphere. Eventually, folks develop major health problems, that don't go away easily.

Hope for scabies. Terrible, dirty, humiliating......but easy to treat.

Rub on the magic lotion a few times, thoroughly launder all of your clothing and bedding. Then, wait for the itching to stop.

Rogeryermaw
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 Quote: Originally posted by zed You are describing the symptoms of scabies. Very itchy, hard to shake. Other possibilities, Chlamydial infection, psoriasis. Assume nothing. See a COMPETENT dermatologist. Have to admit though, that devilish cases of contact dermatitis can break out, after chemical exposure. Formaldehyde is a common culprit. It's a sensitizer. It can start you, to having a multitude of allergy problems. Even make you environmentally ill.....Allergic to almost everything. Used to happen a lot, to folks that worked in newly constructed "sealed" buildings. New Plywood, Carpets, Paints, ETC......Out-gas lots of toxic chemicals, that accumulate in the recycled atmosphere. Eventually, folks develop major health problems, that don't go away easily. Hope for scabies. Terrible, dirty, humiliating......but easy to treat. Rub on the magic lotion a few times, thoroughly launder all of your clothing and bedding. Then, wait for the itching to stop.

funny you mentioned that zed as it came to mind when i read his problem. the thing that made me turn away from that was that once you get scabies it won't cycle. meaning as long as you have them there aren't bouts that come and go. they are constant until you get rid of them. my wife, daughter and myself were all affected by them when my nephew picked them up in a sandbox and it took a while for us to figure out it wasn't going away until we all wen to the doctor. but as you say, a few treatments with the cream, shampoo the carpets and wash all clothing and bedding and they were gone.

also scabies will ravage between your fingers and toes. little buggers are merciless and microscopic and they dig tunnels in your skin.

[Edited on 1-10-2010 by Rogeryermaw]

Magpie
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Several years ago I experienced what I think was eczema on my neck below my left cheek. At the time I was taking organic chemistry lab and dealing with moving my aged mother. It went away. So I chocked it up to stress and/or the lab. More recently I developed what I think is eczema at the base of my little finger on one hand. It has also spread along the top of the hand at the base of nearby fingers. I keep it under control with betamethazone dipropionate cream USP, 0.05% (Fougera). I believe this is a cortizone. It is exacerbated by dry skin conditions due to low humidity. I have always had oily skin but it has become dryer in my golden years.

I did visit a dermatologist. He didn't recommend anything other than the cream I was already using. I'm not at all sure he is competent.

[Edited on 1-10-2010 by Magpie]

The single most important condition for a successful synthesis is good mixing - Nicodem
aonomus
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Formaldehyde and other contaminants in the home that you are less likely to think about seems like a more logical explanation.

Most common inorganics (salts, acids, bases) don't cause anything more than acute reactions and no sensitivity. Some solvents cause some reactions only after chronic exposure, but one common mode of action for solvents causing a reaction is simply defatting of the skin causing dehydration and irritation. Other solvents and organics will end up being processed by the liver and metabolized into compounds more readily excreted which may be sensitizers.

Transition metals or their salts on the other hand *may* be potential sensitizers. Beyond the normal toxic and carcinogenic effects common to several transition metal salts (like nickel, chromium, etc) can cause contact dermatitis or sensitivity.

I myself have issues with metal belt buckles and the metal buttons on jeans around the abdominal area due to metal sensitivity issues now.
Rogeryermaw
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 Quote: Originally posted by Magpie Several years ago I experienced what I think was eczema on my neck below my left chin.

ok dude you know i dig ya so i'm not attacking you but that's hilarious!!!!! as opposed to your right chin? where else might you have chins? anything else strange we should know about you? oh man this is hard to type! had to catch my breath from laughing!!!

seriously though, i'm glad you got it under control. in my worst instances i just use neosporin or one of the generic equivalents. if it is indeed allergy related perhaps benadryl cream or other topical antihistamine.

left chin...i have a very active imagination so you can imagine the array of pictures that flashed through my mind!

[Edited on 1-10-2010 by Rogeryermaw]

entropy51
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 Quote: Originally posted by Rogeryermaw oh man this is hard to type! had to catch my breath from laughing!!!
When you as much (ahem) experience as Magpie and I, you won't be laughing young feller.

I have two chins too. But upper and lower instead of left and right.
Rogeryermaw
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young feller? i'm creeping up on 36 real fast. and at times it seems much older(creaks and pops all over my body). and honestly i just hope i get to that experience level. the intelligence on this forum has floored me more than once...if i ever do make it that far i will welcome what ever comes. the knowledge i have gained here will be worth it!

two chins ain't so bad. at least we can be happy we eat well

[Edited on 1-10-2010 by Rogeryermaw]

Magpie
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The single most important condition for a successful synthesis is good mixing - Nicodem
Rogeryermaw
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oh man no joke you made my day! i haven't gotten to laugh like that in months! sad too because it can make you feel so good when your down to let one off like that. thanks!

uchiacon
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This is very helpful guys, thanks.

I don't think it is blotchy enough to be scabies. It did clear up completely at one point when I stopped eating a certain brand of museli, but came back a week or two afterwards.

Like I said, the worst solvents I have are acetone and meths, no formaldehyde.

The eczema I am getting is like I described in my earlier post, mainly down the side of both of my radius bones, a bit on the outside facing calf muscles, a bit on the outside facing part of the hip/upper leg muscles. It's most likely a food allergy or a different everyday substance?

Roger, when I read that sentence about the chins I was just like
: |

[Edited on 04-07-09 by uchiacon]

[Edited on 04-07-09 by uchiacon]

"If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared."

Before you find youself cheering for a new regulation, consider your reaction if you were to be on the receiving end.
Rogeryermaw
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 Quote: Originally posted by uchiacon Roger, when I read that sentence about the chins I was just like : | [Edited on 04-07-09 by uchiacon] [Edited on 04-07-09 by uchiacon]

they say that laughter is the best medicine!

rrkss
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I had a bad case of contact dermatitis after cleaning something with ethyl acetate. I reccommend a cream called Acid Mantle which does miracles is clearning it up. Before I found that cream I had a chronic eczema on my finger for almost 2 years after the ethyl acetate exposure triggered it.
aonomus
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Another thing to keep in mind is that unless you have HPLC grade solvents, your solvents will also contain impurities as they are industrially produced. Examples include:

- DCM contaminated with HCl
- EtOAc contaminated with heavier oils
- IPA contaminated with silicon oil
- etc.

No solvent is absolutely pure, just 95-99% with a certain number of 9's after the decimal place (with the price increasing proportionally).

I have had some manner of luck with my contact dermatitis/eczema with prescription corticosteroid based ointment (\$) but these are greasy and not really effective. The human body is an incredible and odd system that can ignore stimuli one day then react to it another, and the mode of action behind sensitizers aren't fully understood either.
Ozone
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It could be psoriasis (which I deal with). Is it symmetrical, e.g. on both arms or legs? Do you see small pits in your fingernails? Developing unusually sore or stiff joints?

If these are true, it is likely psoriasis, which appears (to me) to be an autoimmune disease--an allergy to self. I have successfully treated mine with Kenalog (triamcinolone diacetonide), a level 4 steroid. Because resistance develops quickly, requiring the use of more powerful steroids, I would recommend starting with level 4, rather than going straight to a level 7 or 8 with betamethasone (room to "grow"). Once betamethasone fails, that's pretty much it for topicals.

ALSO: with steroid creams, wash your hands after applying them--if you don't, your skin will thin, and crack (or things can just poke through it). Ugh.

Cheers,

O3

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--Albert Einstein
The WiZard is In
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 Quote: Originally posted by uchiacon Hey guys, I've got this nasty bout of contact dermatitis I have acquired in the last year. My mum, being a nurse, thinks it is due to the chemicals I have come in contact with in my laboratory. She thinks it has caused some kind of allergic hypersensitivity to things I could would come in contact with that would now cause rashes.

---------
Wiki-P.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_chemical_sensitivity

[Edited on 2-10-2010 by The WiZard is In]
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Try hydrocortisone cream. Ones with oatmeal seem to be particularly effective for bug bites, itching, burning, skin irritation, etc.

I had some problems myself at one point. Turned out it was my obsessive hand washing that was the culprit, ironically. My skin would flare up red and appear to be cracking, and burn like nothing else. Then, an hour or so later, it would just vanish, with no sign it had ever happened.

I weep at the sight of flaming acetic anhydride.

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