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Allergy to antiseptics: prevention and hand care rules


During the pandemic, antiseptics became extremely popular. They are placed everywhere: in shops, offices, educational and entertainment establishments. Not to mention hospitals and nursing homes. And ordinary citizens are unlikely to dare to leave the house without taking with them a bottle of disinfecting liquid. And that’s all right. But after a short-term use of disinfectants , a new wave of diseases began. This time dermal.  


Now dermatologists and allergists have no rest. Patients complain of itching, redness of the skin, as well as cracks and blisters on the hands. The pandemic has nearly tripled the incidence of contact dermatitis and allergy to antiseptics, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) In the latter case, not only the skin suffers, but also the human immune system as a whole.   

Read below about which drugs cause an undesirable reaction and what is the best way to replace them. 

Chlorhexidine gluconate

Most often, a reaction occurs to antiseptics, which include the aforementioned substance.

According to the FDA, there were 52 cases of anaphylaxis associated with the use of this drug between 1969 and 2015. But, if earlier it was used only for cleaning the skin before operations and injections, now it is sold as a regular disinfectant. In a new information booklet from the Australian Society for Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), the number of allergies to antiseptics containing this ingredient is increasing, but the presence of chlorhexidine solution is not indicated when labeling medicines. Therefore, doctors recommend that you be very careful with this series of disinfectants and call an ambulance if you have the following symptoms:   


· labored breathing;

Swelling of the face;


* Rashes and the presence of blisters;


You can replace the solution with the following disinfectants:

1. Povidone iodine;

2. Alcohols;

3. Benzalkonium chloride

4. Parachloromethaxylenol. 

In addition, ASCIA urged allergy-prone patients to ask their GP for a prescription for epinephrine for anaphylaxis and to discuss a course of action in the event of an antiseptic allergy. 

Disinfectants based on ethyl alcohol

To destroy unwanted viruses and microorganisms, the disinfectant must contain at least 60% alcohol. But when applied, the protective lipid barrier of the skin is also destroyed. Natural microflora is killed and a favorable environment is created for the reproduction of pathogens and bacteria that can cause contact dermatitis. In addition, alcoholic antiseptics contain fragrances and dyes, which also act as allergens. Therefore, in people prone to allergies, the skin becomes rough, dry, covered with small cracks or bubbles, which can also be regarded as an allergy to an antiseptic. If this is about you, see a doctor immediately.    

Isopropyl alcohol based antiseptics

This ingredient is widely used in clinical practice, but the human body cannot adapt to its component. And 84% of patients develop isopropyl contact dermatitis. And if it is used in combination with ethyl alcohol, the allergy to antiseptics only intensifies. This has been proven experimentally. During 1992-2011, doctors tested 1,450 volunteers. Patches with this solution were applied to their skin. As a result, 44 patients developed a reaction to alcohol itself. 4 had hand eczema. 14 have leg ulcers. Another 26 had eczematous lesions of various parts of the body. All others had a negative reaction to more than 3 components of this drug.   


If there is no running water nearby and you cannot wash your hands with soap and water, you will have to adapt to antiseptics. So, remember the following rules:

· Choose disinfectants that contain less than 60% alcohol;

Give preference to products that include not only alcohol, but also glycerin

· Consult a dermatologist if any adverse reactions occur.

Hand care rules when using antiseptics:

· Make nourishing hand masks with your palms in gloves;

· Do not use an antiseptic at home; 

· Wipe your hands dry;

· After each washing of hands, treat them with a nourishing cream;

If you are allergic to antiseptics, carry a nourishing cream with you.  

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