Overview of Adhesive Allergy

When a Bandage or Transdermal Patch Causes Rash

Adhesives are used to provide stickiness so that products will stay on the skin. Examples of these products include adhesive bandages, artificial nails, and transdermal patches, which administer medicine that's absorbed through the skin.

While adhesives serve an important purpose, some people may develop an adhesive allergy after using them. Glues used for the adhesives may cause contact dermatitis, a skin condition that may include a rash, blisters, and skin flaking.

This article explores symptoms of adhesive allergies. It will also explain how this allergy is diagnosed, as well as the treatment options available.

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What Does an Adhesive Allergy Look Like?

When adhesives are left on the skin for hours or days, an allergic reaction may occur. This will usually only impact the area that the adhesive came into contact with. However, symptoms can affect other areas if the reaction is more severe.

Symptoms of an adhesive allergy may include:

  • A red, itchy rash
  • Bumps on the skin
  • Swelling
  • Dry, flaking skin
  • Blisters that may ooze fluid

An allergen is a substance that triggers an allergic reaction. With allergic contact dermatitis, the body "remembers" where the rash was, and if exposed to the allergen again, the rash may reappear in the original spot.

Diagnosing an Adhesive Allergy

Patch testing is a procedure that your doctor may use to diagnose your adhesive allergy. Patch testing can confirm an adhesive allergy or potentially identify other allergens, like chemicals in rubber and medications.

With patch testing:

  • A doctor applies allergens to patches and places them on your back.
  • They will remove the patches a couple of days later and mark your back in a way so that it is clear which parts of your back were exposed to which allergens.
  • You will be examined a third time a couple of days after the second visit. At that time, if you have a contact allergy, you should have raised, red, flaking, and/or blistering spots at areas of your skin that were exposed to something you are allergic to.

Patch testing is a helpful way to figure out exactly what is causing your allergic reaction.

Treating an Allergy to Adhesives

Avoiding adhesive products can reduce your chance of having a reaction. Treatment for an adhesive allergy will vary depending on the severity of the reaction.

  • If you have a minor allergic reaction, you can remove the adhesive and allow the rash to heal on its own over the next few days.
  • If you use a medicated transdermal patch, when it's time to put on a new one, you can try applying the patch to a different area of the body. The rash might not develop in a different area. If a rash occurs again, you may need to stop using that product, and your doctor will prescribe a different treatment for your condition instead of the medicated transdermal patch.

The rash may be treated with a topical corticosteroid, which is an anti-inflammatory cream. This may involve an over-the-counter hydrocortisone 1% cream or a stronger prescription cream. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to reach out to your doctor.

Summary

Symptoms of an adhesive allergy may include redness, blisters, itchy skin, flaking skin, and a rash. While a mild reaction may only appear where the adhesive was applied, a more severe reaction is also possible.

If you think you have an adhesive allergy, it's best to reach out to your doctor to confirm your diagnosis. They may suggest patch testing to find out exactly what you are allergic to.

If you do have an adhesive allergy, treatment may include removing adhesive products to allow your skin to heal, using a corticosteroid cream to treat a rash, and avoiding products with adhesives.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I cover a wound if I'm allergic to adhesives in bandages?

    You can try using a barrier film before applying an adhesive bandage. You can also use a hypoallergenic bandage such as surgical cloth tape. If the wound is on your arm or leg, you can cover it with gauze and then hold it in place with an elastic self-adherent wrap such as Coban.

  • Can I use a liquid bandage if I have an adhesive allergy?

    Yes, you should be able to use a liquid bandage on a variety of injuries, including cuts, blisters, scrapes, and more. Spray-on liquid bandages are especially easy to use.

    It is rare to develop an allergic reaction to liquid bandages, but it has been reported. If you are having a skin reaction, stop using the liquid bandage and consult your physician.

  • What do I do if I'm allergic to the adhesive on my glucose monitor?

    There are a variety of things you can try to prevent skin reactions to your wearable glucose monitor. These include:

    • Placing transparent film (e.g., Tegaderm) on your skin before attaching the monitor
    • Keeping your monitor in place with a self-adherent wrap
    • Switching to a different monitor brand
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6 Sources
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