Published: 13th November 2020
COVID face masks can trigger skin allergies, reveals new study
Researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have revealed that face masks worn to stop the spread of Covid-19 can trigger bouts of eczema in people with sensitive skin and allergies
Researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have revealed that face masks worn to stop the spread of Covid-19 can trigger bouts of eczema in people with sensitive skin and allergies. Eczema is a condition that causes inflamed, itchy, cracked, and rough skin. The most common type is atopic dermatitis.
A medically challenging case presented at this year's virtual American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting revealed that for a man with several skin allergies, mask-wearing triggered his contact dermatitis. "We treated a 60-year-old Black man with adult-onset eczema, contact dermatitis and chronic nasal allergies in our clinic after he presented three times to our hospital emergency room (ER) because of an uncomfortable face rash," said study author Yashu Dhamija, ACAAI member.
"Up until April 2020, his skin conditions had been under control, but with mask-wearing, his symptoms began occurring in areas that providers were not yet accustomed to," Dhamija added. The ER doctors who first saw the patient prescribed prednisone for the rash. When his symptoms were not relieved, the patient underwent a follow up telehealth visit with the hospital's allergy clinic. Further investigation revealed his skin allergies had begun to flare in April 2020, coinciding with the pandemic and his mask-wearing.
"We realized that his rash appeared right where the elastic parts of a mask would rest," said study co-author Kristin Schmidlin, ACAAI member. "We tapered down the prednisone and advised him to use a topical steroid and a topical immunosuppressant until the rash resolved. "We also told him to use cotton-based, dye-free masks without elastic. At a follow-up telephone visit one week later, the patient said his rash continued to improve," Schmidlin added.
The authors noted that common allergens that can affect contact dermatitis are found in masks, elastic bands, and other components of face masks. People with existing skin allergies should work with their allergist.