Allergic reaction to latex bandaids?
December 12, 2004 9:22 PM   Subscribe

Two days ago I had an allgergic reaction to two latex bandaids I had on my arm. It's red, has a very bumpy texture, and itches like mad. 1. Is this normal? 2. Now my entire arm occasionally gets covered in goosebumps. Is that bad?

I've been putting Blue Star Ointment on it to stop the itching. But still, I'm a little freaked out. It's never happened before. The bandaid was Curad brand.
posted by puke & cry to Health & Fitness (32 answers total)
There's probably something in the glue you're mildly allergic to. I have the same problem on and off. Topical Benadryl ointment should help. I'm not familiar with Blue Star, but the point of Benadryl is that it has an antihistimine, which settles down allergic reactions. If it continues to bother you, take Claritin for a few days to squelch the allergic reaction.*

*I am not a doctor; just talkin' from personal experience.
posted by Doohickie at 9:34 PM on December 12, 2004

On review of your pics which I missed the first time: Yeah, that's pretty much the same thing bandaids do to me.
posted by Doohickie at 9:36 PM on December 12, 2004

If there are there little popable bubbles with clear or light amber fluid, then that would be consistent with what I've seen of contact dermatitus. If it keeps behaving like the examples I've seen, it would fade over a few days, and whatever damage you've done from scratching should heal at your normal rate.

Goosebumps? I've not seen any connection before, if you mean something different from the little bubbles.

One unexpected thing I've seen is that the eruption site can be far removed from the exposure site.

The redness I've seen has mostly been from the scratching, not the reaction.
posted by NortonDC at 9:37 PM on December 12, 2004

Response by poster: heres another picture of the texture! fun!
posted by puke & cry at 9:40 PM on December 12, 2004

Response by poster: oh, btw, I haven't scratched it.
posted by puke & cry at 9:41 PM on December 12, 2004

This looks exactly like the rash I get from band-aids. Curse my sensitive skin. For now... try cortisone cream or topical benny as suggested until rash goes away. For me it takes a week or so but the itch subsides after a day or so.

For the future...try lots of brands. I bummed a lot of single band-aids off friends to isolate the ones I am allergic to (most) and find the ones that work. For me, the cheaper and more plastic-y the band-aid the smaller the rash. Best of luck!

Oh, and I have never tried the paint on newfangled band-aids due to a lack of cuts recently (yay!) but it seems like that would provide a fabulous solution to both our problems. Happy healing!
posted by tinamonster at 9:45 PM on December 12, 2004

By the way, loved your photo illustrations!!!
posted by tinamonster at 9:47 PM on December 12, 2004

Sounds like an allergic contact dermatitis, probably to the adhesives... The goosebumps are a mystery.
posted by drpynchon at 9:47 PM on December 12, 2004

So three of us get the same rash from bandaids. They can put a man on the moon, but they can't make a bandaid that doesn't make people break out.
posted by Doohickie at 9:49 PM on December 12, 2004

The goosebumps may be related. I have had allergic reactions that result in goosebumps and/or hives. The claritin will clear that up.
posted by Doohickie at 9:50 PM on December 12, 2004

And here I was all set to invite you to this Friday's Dallas meetup. But now...just...ugh...


posted by Ufez Jones at 9:56 PM on December 12, 2004

Hey Ufez:

Don't mess with us allergics. Otherwise we'll have to form a Power Trio and come after you. Unless you have a cat. Then...just....nevermind.
posted by tinamonster at 10:00 PM on December 12, 2004

That's okay. We might have our own Tarrant County meetup anywho.
posted by Doohickie at 10:01 PM on December 12, 2004

It's probably a glue allergy, not a latex allergy. The goosebumps are probably just from random histamine release.

It'll go away on its own, or if the symptoms are too obnoxious, diphenhydramine is often used (topical or oral). Mind; the oral form is quite sedating.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:07 PM on December 12, 2004

mmmmm..... sedating..... ;-)
posted by Doohickie at 10:15 PM on December 12, 2004

Easy and fun way to tell if it's a reaction to the latex and not the adhesive: buy a pair of latex gloves and put them on for... eh, a few hours. Any reaction at all, even mild irritation, may indicate a latex allergy, in which case you should go visit an allergist to confirm.

That said, it really does seem like it's a reaction to the adhesive. In that case, try Benadryl (diphenhydramine), as suggested. I used to use the topical kind when I got allergic rashes as a kid. Cold compresses also work to keep the itching at bay, but the effects wear off quickly.
posted by bedhead at 10:19 PM on December 12, 2004

When I was a kid I was majorly allergic to Band-Aids. Let me tell you, it sucked not being able to wear smiley-face Bandaids. I think I'm over it now.

As an adult it's usually a non-issue, but some off brand gave me a rash a while back. More burn than itch, but basically the same reaction.

My mom would make bandages out of gauze and Johnson's tape, which for some reason I could tolerate as a child.
posted by O9scar at 10:35 PM on December 12, 2004

Response by poster: Benadryl hmm....So nobody knows about blue star?

I would love to wear latex gloves for a few hours but I don't want to risk breaking out for a week all over my hands. nice idea, though.

I've started covering all my wounds with gauze and self-adhesive bandages, and now I HATE bandaids.

It seems to be the consensus that i'm allergic to the glue. But I've put on bandaids before and nothing happened. Are there difference kinds of bandaid glue, or is this an allergy that can start just outta the blue?
posted by puke & cry at 11:20 PM on December 12, 2004

Response by poster: oh yeah, since when is there a meetup on friday? why wasn't I informed??!??!?!
posted by puke & cry at 11:22 PM on December 12, 2004

I found out the hard way that I had a latex allergy. I had surgery and the mask burned my face. The doctor said that each reaction would get worse, don't risk it. So, for you, I would say keep Benadryl around, always. Definately go to an allergist. It seems a bit of a drastic reaction from a band-aid, but whatever. I would be a bit freaked out, too.
posted by codeofconduct at 11:53 PM on December 12, 2004

P.S. My allergy came outta the blue. As we age, we become less immune from things like allergies.
posted by codeofconduct at 11:54 PM on December 12, 2004

Response by poster: damn. now you have me worried. I'm definitely going to stay away from glue and latex.

wait...what about condoms?
posted by puke & cry at 12:02 AM on December 13, 2004

I've got a pretty severe latex allery (15 seconds of contact with the wrong gloves at the dentist last year left me with a severe, nasty, painful rash on my entire face for two weeks). It sucks, and there is pathetically little information about dealing with the allergy online.

Two things you can learn from the internet about the allergy: Usually frequent exposure to latex is what causes it--so nurses and doctors are more likely to have the allergy than ordinary folks; There appears to be some correlation between latex allergies and tropical fruit allergies. Oddly enough, I am also allergic to mangoes. Dunno if it's related.

From my experience, there's not much of a "cure" for a latex rash. I've tried lots of things -- applying liquid Benadryl, calamine lotion, and ordinary moisturizer. Vaseline and Vaseline's vitamine E lotion work better than anything else. Taking Benadryl internally may help, but I am not sure.

I know that there are different kinds of latex, so you can be allergic to some, but not others. I am not a chemist, so forgive me if my understanding is completely off here, but I believe that latex is a naturally occuring rubber that is bonded with different chemicals depending on the desired consistency, use, etc.

I am severely allergic to the gloves. When we repainted my house a few years ago with latex-based paint, I had respiratory problems until the paint dried. And I have to buy non-latex bandaids. But condoms ... not a problem.

To reiterate: IT'S POSSIBLE TO BE ALLERGIC TO SOME LATEX AND STILL USE CONDOMS. Sorry about the all caps, but I want to make sure this point doesn't get lost in all of my rambling.

I did a kind of silly experiment with condoms as a teenager to make sure they wouldn't kill me during, ahem, intimacy -- I wore one on my foot under a sock for a few hours. No rash, I figured I was safe, a theory which has proved true so far. My theory is that the bonding chemicals used in latex condoms are different than those used in the paint, gloves, and bandaids.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:28 AM on December 13, 2004

By the way, if you go to a well-stocked pharmacy you should be able to find non-latex bandaids. That may be all you require.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:32 AM on December 13, 2004

also, if you do develop an allergy to the latex in condoms, you can try using polyurethane or animal skin ones instead (although the latter kind won't prevent the spread of HIV, and the former kind break slightly more easily).
posted by introcosm at 12:40 AM on December 13, 2004

As a fellow allergy sufferer, it might be worth it to see an allergist before you try to determine if you're allergic to latex yourself. If/when you visit, bring some of the bandaids that gave you the reaction, so they can determine what caused the reaction.

The reason I suggest going to the doc for the latex allergy is that latex allergies can be life threatening, and they'd be much better prepared to handle it if you got a bad reaction.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:41 AM on December 13, 2004

Response by poster: By the way, if you go to a well-stocked pharmacy you should be able to find non-latex bandaids. That may be all you require.

like cloth bandiads, right? that's what I thought of to avoid this allergy. (unless i'm allergic to the adhesive)
posted by puke & cry at 12:49 AM on December 13, 2004

If you decide to use diphenhydramine (what Benadryl is, only cheaper because the name isn't capitalized), read the label. My opinion is subjective, but i've been around a lot of people who are taking the drug for allergic reaction. Not only does it do a fine job of making you sleepy/dopey, it also makes many people irritable/cranky/mean as a snake.

Your reaction looks like what others pointed out: contact dermatitis from the adhesive. You might not have a problem unless you are leaving the adhesive against your skin for too long. Cloth bandaids have the same adhesive. Bandaids can be removed within a half hour, in most cases. The only reason to keep them on longer is to protect from chafing, or to hold a medicated gel against the injury.
posted by reflecked at 3:53 AM on December 13, 2004

Because your reaction is so similar to mine and isn't over the whole area that the band-aid covers, only on the glue-y part I'm thinking it's the glue, but it's worth experimenting.

I am most allergic to the glue on the cloth ones. In fact, I have found that the glue on those separates from the Band-Aid and stays on my skin, causing a subsequent much worse rash until I wash repeatedly under hot water to get it all off. If you are feeling brave try the cloth kind in an inconspicuous area and see if you still break out. If so, the glue is the most likely culprit.

Lastly, when you do figure it out make sure you inform your doctor on every visit and especially let your nurse and/or doctor know if you ever go into hospital. This will (hopefully) save you many large itchy rashes.
posted by tinamonster at 7:33 AM on December 13, 2004

If the rash persists for, say, a week you should see a doctor. For one thing they can prescribe steroid creams, which (in my experience) kick the ass of Benadryl and other OTC antihistamines when it comes to getting rid of rashes. The diphenhydramine is still nice for anti-itch, but steroids really get things under control.
posted by aramaic at 9:29 AM on December 13, 2004

People who are saying you should see an allergist are probably right.

If it is latex, you should probably get one of those med-alert bracelets -- at least, that's what my doctor keeps telling me.

The non-latex bandaids are clearly labeled "latex free." The one's I've used are not cloth, they're an earlier generation of plastic/rubber, a little stiffer than regular bandaids and don't breathe as well.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:36 AM on December 13, 2004

Definitely seek an allergist if you at all think it may be a latex allergy - you can have reactions to avocados and bananas, too. These will, of course, be in your mouth/throat - where bumps and swelling are really bad...
Make sure you tell your GP/allergist that you think you may have a latex allergy as soon as you hit the door, so when they do the initial exam, they are wearing the correct gloves.
posted by blackkar at 12:33 PM on December 13, 2004

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