Your COVID-19 mask may have allergens that cause this skin illness

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Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, those able to wear a face mask have been encouraged to do so to prevent transmission of the virus.

For some people with skin allergies, wearing a mask can cause further problems.

In a new study, researchers reported that for a man with several skin allergies, mask-wearing triggered his contact dermatitis, a condition in which the skin becomes red, swollen and sore.

The research was conducted by a team at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

In the study, the team treated a 60-year-old Black man with adult-onset eczema, contact dermatitis and chronic nasal allergies after he presented three times to the hospital emergency room (ER) because of an uncomfortable face rash.

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.

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 tests revealed his skin allergies had begun to flare in April 2020, coinciding with the pandemic and his mask-wearing.

The team realized that his rash appeared right where the elastic parts of a mask would rest.

They tapered down the prednisone and advised him to use a topical steroid and a topical immunosuppressant until the rash resolved.

They 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.

The researchers note 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. Their board-certified allergists can perform patch testing to help identify specific components in masks which may be triggering symptoms.

One author of the study is allergist Yashu Dhamija, MD.

The study was presented at the virtual American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting.

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