A Guide to Plaster Allergies: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

A Guide to Plaster Allergies: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

A Guide to Plaster Allergies: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

An allergic reaction to plasters is not uncommon. Anyone can be allergic to plasters, but it’s more likely to appear in children and people with sensitive skin. 44% of all adults in the UK suffer from at least one allergy, and in the last 30 years, the number of children with eczema has trebled, according to data gathered by Allergy UK

Thankfully a plaster allergy is easily treated and prevented. Read on to find out why plaster allergies occur, how to spot them, treat them, and avoid them in the future.

What is an adhesive allergy?

An allergic reaction you get from wearing a plaster isn’t caused by the actual plaster itself, it’s caused by the adhesive used to keep the plaster on your skin.

Adhesives that make plasters sticky, like acrylate or methyl acrylate, are often responsible for skin irritations and allergic reactions. These chemicals are usually found in acrylic nails too, so if you react to these, it’s likely you’ll also have an allergy to plaster adhesive. 

Because of this, even if you remove a plaster, there could be some adhesive residue on your skin that continues to irritate the area. This is why it’s important to remove the plaster completely, including all the adhesive residue, is important.

Two different types of allergic reactions can occur from plaster adhesive: allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis. According to a review published by the National Library of Medicine, “Irritant contact dermatitis is a nonspecific response of the skin to direct chemical damage that releases mediators of inflammation predominantly from epidermal cells while allergic contact dermatitis is a delayed (type 4) hypersensitivity reaction to exogenous contact antigens.”

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Skin cells are irritated directly by a substance. The reaction can show up later on after the substance has been removed from the skin. This triggers an immune response to an allergen which is usually more severe than irritant contact dermatitis. The symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis can worsen with each new exposure to the allergen.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Irritant Contact Dermatitis

This type of response occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or toxic material. As such, the only area of skin affected is that which came directly into contact with the substance, and the response is more immediate than allergic contact dermatitis.

Unlike allergic contact dermatitis, the symptoms caused by irritant contact dermatitis are usually the same severity each time. 

Latex Allergy

Latex is a naturally occurring rubber used in many products, including some plasters. Latex allergy is thought to affect 5% of the UK population, though reactions vary, and some people may not even notice symptoms.

The more exposure a person has to latex proteins, the more likely a latex allergy is to develop, so those with occupational exposure, like beauticians and healthcare providers, are more likely to be allergic. 

At Steroplast, we only sell plasters that are latex-free, along with other wearables like disposable gloves, to ensure the risk of developing a latex allergy is minimised. We always try to offer hypoallergenic products with as few known allergens as possible whenever we can. Find out about hypoallergenicity and how to trust what you buy.

latex allergy on hand

Why am I suddenly allergic to plasters?

It might seem like a plaster allergy comes on suddenly, making you wonder what changed. A ‘sudden’ plaster allergy could be the result of the following.

  • Using a different type of plaster. If you switch plaster brands, you could have an adverse reaction to the different adhesives your skin is not used to.
  • You may be using latex plasters which could trigger an allergic reaction after repeated exposure.
  • Consider whether an unrelated substance is causing your allergic reaction. Residual detergent under a plaster or even a change in environment can make your skin more sensitive or irritated.

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Venn diagram of plaster adhesive allergy diagnosis

How is a plaster adhesive allergy diagnosed?

Maybe plaster allergy symptoms are the same regardless of whether you have allergic contact dermatitis or irritant contact dermatitis. See the diagram for similarities and differences in allergy to plaster symptoms.

Most of the time it’s easy to self-diagnose an adhesive allergy. The allergic reaction will occur directly under the plaster where the adhesive comes into contact with the skin or in the surrounding area where the body produces an immune response.

You may notice symptoms like a rash from plaster exposure, itching, sensitivity, blisters, or skin flaking, which increases with exposure and decreases once the plaster is removed. 

Most of the time, symptoms are quite mild and can be diagnosed and treated at home. However, if your symptoms are more severe, you may wish to see your GP for a formal diagnosis and treatment. If your symptoms are still present, your GP can examine them. Otherwise, they will ask you to describe and explain your reaction. Bringing the plasters in question with you can help too.

Your GP might diagnose your allergic reaction themself, or they might refer you to a dermatologist or allergy specialist. You may be offered a patch test in which a small amount of each allergen is applied to an area of your skin, and the reactions are observed to determine which allergens you react to and to decide on the proper treatment.

Plaster Allergy Treatment

Unless you have a severe reaction and want to see your GP, it doesn’t matter which type of allergic reaction you have because they are usually treated similarly.

Sometimes the only thing you need to do is remove the plaster and wash your skin with water or gentle soap to ensure all the adhesive is removed. Your symptoms should then clear up after a few days. Here’s what to use if allergic to plasters to soothe your skin and help it to heal.

Moisturise

Dermatitis causes the skin to dry out and become flaky and even cracked. This leaves the skin vulnerable, and the risk of further damage and even injection is heightened. Using a moisturiser replenishes water lost through the skin and provides a protective barrier while it heals.

Select an unscented moisturiser to avoid further irritation. Some moisturisers are water-based and provide an injection of hydration, whereas some oil-based products provide an occlusive barrier to prevent the skin from losing more moisture. So check the label to ensure you’re buying the product you need.

Moisturise
Use a Cold Compress

Use a Cold Compress

Sometimes the itching and soreness from a skin allergy can be painful or make it difficult not to scratch the area. When this occurs, soothe the area with a cold compress, such as a bag of peas or ice wrapped in a towel and pressed gently to the area.

Take Antihistamines

Taking antihistamines can help to reduce the symptoms of the allergic reaction your body is producing. You can take antihistamines in tablet form orally, as a syrup (which is good for children), or even use a topical antihistamine cream directly on the affected area. You can buy antihistamines off the shelf or over the counter in pharmacies and most supermarkets.

Take Antihistamines
Use an Oat Bath

Use an Oat Bath

Oats contain fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6, which help to keep your skin healthy. Applying oats directly to the skin is proven to reduce swelling and itching. 

To make an oat bath, blend some whole or rolled oats in a food processor until you have a texture similar to flour but slightly grittier. Add a cup of ground oats to a warm bath (but not too hot), and soak the affected area under the waterline. Pat the affected area dry afterwards, rather than rubbing it.

Use a Corticosteroid

If your reaction is persistent, a corticosteroid can help. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation but should not be used for extended periods because they thin the skin. 

A commonly used corticosteroid is hydrocortisone. You can buy hydrocortisone cream at 1% strength from your local pharmacist. Be sure to read and follow the instructions for use. If your reaction persists, you may get a stronger corticosteroid from your GP.

See more plaster FAQs answered by our experts.

Use a Corticosteroid

How to Prevent Allergic Reaction to Plasters

The best way to keep your skin safe if you’re allergic to plaster adhesive is to prevent the reaction in the first place. This can easily be done by using the right type of plaster. We recommend those with plaster adhesive allergies look for the following plasters that will be gentler on their skin.

Hypoallergenic Plasters

Also sold as  ‘anti-allergy plasters’ or ‘plasters for sensitive skin’, hypoallergenic plasters are made with minimal allergy-causing ingredients. No product will ever be allergen-free, but brands can help protect sensitive skin by offering plasters that are tested to have as few known skin allergens as possible. 

It’s important to know that when a product is ‘hypoallergenic’ it doesn’t necessarily have to meet a scientific standard. Find out what ‘hypoallergenic’ means exactly and how to know you can trust the products you buy.

If you’re a business owner searching for plasters to supply to your workplace, hypoallergenic plasters are always a safe bet. This ensures that everyone, including those with sensitive skin, is catered to.

Latex free Plasters

Most good quality plasters are latex-free to avoid putting consumers at risk of latex allergy. However, checking the ingredients to ensure you’re not exposed is a good idea.

Ultimately, understanding how you react to plasters is a process of trial and error. Once you find a suitable plaster brand that doesn’t cause a skin reaction, stick to it.

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An allergic reaction to plasters is not uncommon. Anyone can be allergic to plasters, but it’s more likely to appear in children and people with sensitive skin. 44% of all adults in the UK suffer from at least one allergy, and in the last 30 years, the number of children with eczema has trebled, according to data gathered by Allergy UK

Thankfully a plaster allergy is easily treated and prevented. Read on to find out why plaster allergies occur, how to spot them, treat them, and avoid them in the future.

What is an adhesive allergy?

An allergic reaction you get from wearing a plaster isn’t caused by the actual plaster itself, it’s caused by the adhesive used to keep the plaster on your skin.

Adhesives that make plasters sticky, like acrylate or methyl acrylate, are often responsible for skin irritations and allergic reactions. These chemicals are usually found in acrylic nails too, so if you react to these, it’s likely you’ll also have an allergy to plaster adhesive. 

Because of this, even if you remove a plaster, there could be some adhesive residue on your skin that continues to irritate the area. This is why it’s important to remove the plaster completely, including all the adhesive residue, is important.

Two different types of allergic reactions can occur from plaster adhesive: allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis. According to a review published by the National Library of Medicine, “Irritant contact dermatitis is a nonspecific response of the skin to direct chemical damage that releases mediators of inflammation predominantly from epidermal cells while allergic contact dermatitis is a delayed (type 4) hypersensitivity reaction to exogenous contact antigens.”

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Skin cells are irritated directly by a substance. The reaction can show up later on after the substance has been removed from the skin. This triggers an immune response to an allergen which is usually more severe than irritant contact dermatitis. The symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis can worsen with each new exposure to the allergen.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Irritant Contact Dermatitis

This type of response occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or toxic material. As such, the only area of skin affected is that which came directly into contact with the substance, and the response is more immediate than allergic contact dermatitis.

Unlike allergic contact dermatitis, the symptoms caused by irritant contact dermatitis are usually the same severity each time. 

Latex Allergy

Latex is a naturally occurring rubber used in many products, including some plasters. Latex allergy is thought to affect 5% of the UK population, though reactions vary, and some people may not even notice symptoms.

The more exposure a person has to latex proteins, the more likely a latex allergy is to develop, so those with occupational exposure, like beauticians and healthcare providers, are more likely to be allergic. 

At Steroplast, we only sell plasters that are latex-free, along with other wearables like disposable gloves, to ensure the risk of developing a latex allergy is minimised. We always try to offer hypoallergenic products with as few known allergens as possible whenever we can. Find out about hypoallergenicity and how to trust what you buy.

latex allergy on hand

Why am I suddenly allergic to plasters?

It might seem like a plaster allergy comes on suddenly, making you wonder what changed. A ‘sudden’ plaster allergy could be the result of the following.

  • Using a different type of plaster. If you switch plaster brands, you could have an adverse reaction to the different adhesives your skin is not used to.
  • You may be using latex plasters which could trigger an allergic reaction after repeated exposure.
  • Consider whether an unrelated substance is causing your allergic reaction. Residual detergent under a plaster or even a change in environment can make your skin more sensitive or irritated.
Venn diagram of plaster adhesive allergy diagnosis

How is a plaster adhesive allergy diagnosed?

Maybe plaster allergy symptoms are the same regardless of whether you have allergic contact dermatitis or irritant contact dermatitis. See the diagram for similarities and differences in allergy to plaster symptoms.

Most of the time it’s easy to self-diagnose an adhesive allergy. The allergic reaction will occur directly under the plaster where the adhesive comes into contact with the skin or in the surrounding area where the body produces an immune response.

You may notice symptoms like a rash from plaster exposure, itching, sensitivity, blisters, or skin flaking, which increases with exposure and decreases once the plaster is removed. 

Most of the time, symptoms are quite mild and can be diagnosed and treated at home. However, if your symptoms are more severe, you may wish to see your GP for a formal diagnosis and treatment. If your symptoms are still present, your GP can examine them. Otherwise, they will ask you to describe and explain your reaction. Bringing the plasters in question with you can help too.

Your GP might diagnose your allergic reaction themself, or they might refer you to a dermatologist or allergy specialist. You may be offered a patch test in which a small amount of each allergen is applied to an area of your skin, and the reactions are observed to determine which allergens you react to and to decide on the proper treatment.

Plaster Allergy Treatment

Unless you have a severe reaction and want to see your GP, it doesn’t matter which type of allergic reaction you have because they are usually treated similarly.

Sometimes the only thing you need to do is remove the plaster and wash your skin with water or gentle soap to ensure all the adhesive is removed. Your symptoms should then clear up after a few days. Here’s what to use if allergic to plasters to soothe your skin and help it to heal.

Moisturise

Dermatitis causes the skin to dry out and become flaky and even cracked. This leaves the skin vulnerable, and the risk of further damage and even injection is heightened. Using a moisturiser replenishes water lost through the skin and provides a protective barrier while it heals.

Select an unscented moisturiser to avoid further irritation. Some moisturisers are water-based and provide an injection of hydration, whereas some oil-based products provide an occlusive barrier to prevent the skin from losing more moisture. So check the label to ensure you’re buying the product you need.

Moisturise
Use a Cold Compress

Use a Cold Compress

Sometimes the itching and soreness from a skin allergy can be painful or make it difficult not to scratch the area. When this occurs, soothe the area with a cold compress, such as a bag of peas or ice wrapped in a towel and pressed gently to the area.

Take Antihistamines

Taking antihistamines can help to reduce the symptoms of the allergic reaction your body is producing. You can take antihistamines in tablet form orally, as a syrup (which is good for children), or even use a topical antihistamine cream directly on the affected area. You can buy antihistamines off the shelf or over the counter in pharmacies and most supermarkets.

Take Antihistamines
Use an Oat Bath

Use an Oat Bath

Oats contain fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6, which help to keep your skin healthy. Applying oats directly to the skin is proven to reduce swelling and itching. 

To make an oat bath, blend some whole or rolled oats in a food processor until you have a texture similar to flour but slightly grittier. Add a cup of ground oats to a warm bath (but not too hot), and soak the affected area under the waterline. Pat the affected area dry afterwards, rather than rubbing it.

Use a Corticosteroid

If your reaction is persistent, a corticosteroid can help. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation but should not be used for extended periods because they thin the skin. 

A commonly used corticosteroid is hydrocortisone. You can buy hydrocortisone cream at 1% strength from your local pharmacist. Be sure to read and follow the instructions for use. If your reaction persists, you may get a stronger corticosteroid from your GP.

See more plaster FAQs answered by our experts.

Use a Corticosteroid

How to Prevent Allergic Reaction to Plasters

The best way to keep your skin safe if you’re allergic to plaster adhesive is to prevent the reaction in the first place. This can easily be done by using the right type of plaster. We recommend those with plaster adhesive allergies look for the following plasters that will be gentler on their skin.

Hypoallergenic Plasters

Also sold as  ‘anti-allergy plasters’ or ‘plasters for sensitive skin’, hypoallergenic plasters are made with minimal allergy-causing ingredients. No product will ever be allergen-free, but brands can help protect sensitive skin by offering plasters that are tested to have as few known skin allergens as possible. 

It’s important to know that when a product is ‘hypoallergenic’ it doesn’t necessarily have to meet a scientific standard. Find out what ‘hypoallergenic’ means exactly and how to know you can trust the products you buy.

If you’re a business owner searching for plasters to supply to your workplace, hypoallergenic plasters are always a safe bet. This ensures that everyone, including those with sensitive skin, is catered to.

Latex free Plasters

Most good quality plasters are latex-free to avoid putting consumers at risk of latex allergy. However, checking the ingredients to ensure you’re not exposed is a good idea.

Ultimately, understanding how you react to plasters is a process of trial and error. Once you find a suitable plaster brand that doesn’t cause a skin reaction, stick to it.

Please enter your details into the form below along with any questions or comments and a member of our team will be happy to provide you with more information:

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