Wristband allergy?
January 24, 2013 5:29 PM   Subscribe

My son has a rash on his wrist (yes, he has seen a doctor). We think the rash might be a reaction to an admission wristband from a local play area. But those bands are made of Tyvek, which isn't supposed to trigger allergies. Any ideas?

We noticed the rash just before Jan 1. It's a ring around one wrist, where he wore the band. We initially didn't make the connection between wristband and rash, but after a visit to the play area again this weekend the rash flared up again, on the same wrist, which makes us think the band is at fault - and this time the cream prescribed for the rash doesn't seem to be helping as much. However, the info I can find on Tyvek bands says that they are often used for allergy alert identifiers, because Tyvek is nonreactive. This makes googling info hard (almost all results are for places selling alert bands, not info about potential allergies TO the band) but we cannot think of any other reason why he would have a skin reaction on one wrist only that coincides with when he wore the bands.

Aside from a very brief and mild reaction to peanuts (which he grew out of by age 1) our son has never had any other allergic reactions to anything. The kicker is that he loves the play area, the bands are required for admission, so now we're stuck - concerned about the possible allergy but not looking forward to another doctor's visit and the inevitable bill. Any similar experiences, ideas, or suggestions would be helpful.
posted by caution live frogs to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It seems like you can clear up any uncertainty by putting it on his other wrist next time, right?
posted by pullayup at 5:33 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Next time you go throw the band on the other arm. It flares up you have your answer. (Or what pullayup said, but I would have said first if I typed faster!)

He could be having a rash because of sweat under the band or irritants that get caught between it and the skin. He could also be allergic to it. I know people that have reactions to any adhesives, even the ones that aren't supposed to cause problems.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:34 PM on January 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

The band could be causing irritation without being allergenic - does it get damp, or is it dusty at the play area? Is he using any soaps/gels that could be getting trapped under the band?

Also, if it does turn out to be something to do with the band and he can't play without one, just have him wear long sleeves or a fabric wristband under the tyvek one.
posted by mskyle at 5:35 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah just because something is "hypoallergenic" doesn't mean that it't *never* going to bother *anyone.* Who knows what they put in Tyvek!?! Also I agree with cjorgensen that it could be from sweat getting trapped under the band. I would try the other wrist the next time, that should give you a final answer.
posted by radioamy at 5:35 PM on January 24, 2013

Could be the stickum that those bands use to attach to themselves. If you don't line the ends up carefully, there's a sliver of adhesive left sticking out that can stick to the skin.
posted by spacewrench at 5:35 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Does the wristband have a little metal clasp? What about adhesive? Either of those things seem more likely allergens. Ask them to put it around his ankle next time.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:35 PM on January 24, 2013

Best answer: Whether or not he's allergic, send him to the play area in long socks and put the wrist band on his ankle (over the sock). Or put it around a belt loop on his pants. It's not like it's a bar or concert it has to be on a particular wrist to show you're of age and have paid, just to identify who's child it is, right?
posted by missriss89 at 5:42 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Next time, put a sweatband on his wrist and put the Tyvek band over it.
posted by erst at 5:43 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Besides the adhesive there is also printing on most of these bands; it could be the ink that is causing the problem.
posted by Mitheral at 6:19 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Put it over a shirt or sweatband. I'm allergic to Telfa bandages and also get rashy from wristbands I've had to wear for work (concerts and events). Keeping it very loose might help, but then he'll probably just lose it or tear it off.
posted by checkitnice at 6:25 PM on January 24, 2013

My first guess is that he's got sensitive skin and it's sweat/dirt. Happened all the time to me as a kid. Almost every "enclosed in material somewhat tightly" thing turned into a rash - provided I was sweaty or got into a dirty situation. Had no problem with little bracelets worn overnight in cool weather, for instance, whereas every watch invented gave me a rash.

Heat and moisture are extremely unfriendly to skin, particularly if they're trapped next to it, together, for any length of time.
posted by SMPA at 6:33 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nthing SMPA, as a life long eczema sufferer, I don't need to be allergic to something - if my skin is being sensitive, just having something against it, especially something that doesn't breathe, will give me a rash.
posted by smoke at 7:32 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I would guess it's a combination of the band being too tight, irritating the skin with moisture, and maybe him playing with it.

Tyvek is just a type of polyethelene, which is all over the place.
posted by gjc at 8:41 PM on January 24, 2013

If you're looking for more information regarding a possible reaction to the aforementioned stickum or glue you might make inquiries after latex allergies.
posted by mce at 11:12 PM on January 24, 2013

It could be anything on the band. All the things suggested so far (ink, glue, metal, stuff stuck underneath) are definitely possible. This is how far it would go for me: I'm allergic to perfume, particularly the types found in soaps and detergents. If someone had washed their hands in the wrong hand soap then turned around and put the band on my wrist, that second hand contact would be enough to give me a rash. Crazy huh?

So definitely put it on the other wrist next time to test. Then try covering the skin underneath, a sweat band would do the trick. If those things aren't enough then I'd say you have a good amount of evidence to work with the playground people to find an alternative, a leg or a belt loop are good ideas.

And if it is a latex allergy you probably want to know since that can be an issue during a medical emergency (latex gloves).
posted by shelleycat at 12:59 AM on January 25, 2013

It could be irritation rather than allergy. It could be any of the things the band is made up of. Also, you can be allergic to anything. There are people out there, not many, who are allergic to water. I knew somebody who was allergic to not only natural latex (common) but aloe vera (supposed to be all soothing and stuff).

Try the other wrist.
posted by tel3path at 4:44 AM on January 25, 2013

Response by poster: "The other wrist" was my first thought as well: But Mrs. Frogs doesn't want him to end up with a nasty rash on BOTH wrists. He's had these red spots on his right wrist pretty much constantly since Dec 26, and while it looks better on some days, on others it gets puffy again. We don't want him to end up with TWO itchy scaly rashy spots instead of one.

It does look a little like eczema, and he had some issues with eczema as an infant, so that's a possibility. The adhesive is another. He doesn't have any reaction to latex (no issues with band-aids, and he often wears kid-sized latex gloves when playing Scientist).

The weird thing (and the reason we didn't suspect the band immediately) is that he had visited the play area at least 4 times before we ever saw this reaction. We've been slathering his arm with the prescription steroid cream, but the rash only subsides a bit, it never completely disappears.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:24 AM on January 25, 2013

How tight are they putting on the wristband? Could you make sure that they apply it LESS-tightly? If it's really close to the skin, it can cause irritation even WITHOUT any allergens in it.

One idea: get an old sweatshirt or long-sleeved t-shirt with ribbed cuffs at the thrift store. Cut off one of the ribbed cuffs and let your son wear it as a nice, cushy cotton wristband ABOVE WHICH they can apply the irritant Tyvek one.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:16 AM on January 25, 2013

I get a lot of rashes from things, and it usually takes a while for my skin to get sensitized to something and react to it; using something several times without incident, then more-or-less suddenly having a rash develop to it, is a pretty familiar pattern for me. I would see if you can put something under the band, as others have suggested.

It's also possible that the cream is actually irritating him as well. One pattern I've noticed with creams is that they often feel fine going on in the morning, but then the irritation slowly builds and is worse at the end of the day. My allergist gave me a sample of a prescription anti-itch cream for a rash that I had; later, I used the cream on another rash and I started noticing after a while that the rash felt fine when I put the cream on in the morning, but was bad at night. I finally made the connection, quit using the cream, and the rash subsided.

In my experience, rashes aren't something that doctors are terribly helpful with. In most cases, they never figure out what's causing it and just try to reduce the symptoms. It will probably go away on its own as long as you don't do anything to make it worse (and it's not always easy to predict what will make them worse). It's frustrating, I know.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 12:22 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Could this rash possibly be ringworm? My son had a couple of similar weird itchy, flaky spots, and after weeks of puzzlement it was finally diagnosed as ringworm, which he probably picked up by contact with another kid with ringworm. A camp buddy? A birthday party attendee? We never knew. A play area area full of kids with exposed skin sweating all over the equipment sounds like an ideal place to pick up an infection like this.

Easily treated with antifungal ointment Rx, but it was something we never even considered. Note that if it is a fungal infection, hydrocortisone will not improve it, and might make it worse. We learned this exact thing.
posted by citygirl at 1:24 PM on January 25, 2013

If it's acting like a forest fire that never completely goes out, consider the possibility that it's something more like intertrigo - when I get that, I have to use this funky zinc oxide/antifungal/steroid paste ("Greer goo") to make it fully go away. It's made by a compounding pharmacy, but you can try to test this on your own using over-the-counter products (antifungal first, then steroid, then Desatin) to see if that helps.

In my case, an antifungal alone makes it act OK for a while - but it comes roaring back as soon as the cream is discontinued. Exactly the same thing as with steroid cream. Extremely annoying. Me explaining this is actually what convinced my doctor that I had exactly what I had: she didn't have to look at the skin (she did look, but only after writing down the word "intertrigo" on a tongue depressor for me to take home and Google.)

(I also make a point to use Aquaphor ointment on those areas between outbreaks, to prevent a recurrence. It's been almost two months since the last time I had to open up the jar of goop from the pharmacist. I feel like I need to go whack some kind of wooden object just in case, now that I've typed that.)
posted by SMPA at 7:35 PM on January 25, 2013

Just an FYI--ringworm usually looks like a red ring with a raised edge and it expands quickly. When I had it, the ring doubled in size every day or so. I used an OTC antifungal cream (anything for Athlete's Foot will work, I believe) to clear it up.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:28 PM on January 25, 2013

Oh, one more thing and I'll shut up. Just want to emphasize what was said above, that this doesn't necessarily have anything to do with allergies. Some people just have skin that's sensitive to things without the immune system being involved; it can look pretty similar to allergies, but it isn't the same. I get rashes from fabrics, from getting my skin cold, from toilet paper, all sorts of things, and it's Irritant Contact Dermatitis, not allergies. I wouldn't take him to see an allergist unless you try putting something under the wristband and the rash still persists.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:52 PM on January 25, 2013

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