Case study: allergens causing a common skin condition found in masks


Compiled by Zakiyah Ebrahim
|Health 24

  • A 60-year-old US patient experienced several skin allergies, which resulted in him going to the emergency room
  • Doctors found that her facial masks, with rubber bands, were causing her skin problems
  • After switching to cotton-based masks, without dyes, without elastic, his condition improved

Cloth masks have been used as a key tool in the fight against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. However, a 60-year-old man ended up in the emergency room (ER) due to his mask.

At this year’s American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) scientific meeting, doctors presented a report on the case.

“We treated a 60-year-old black man with adult-onset eczema, contact dermatitis and chronic nasal allergies at our clinic after he presented three times to our hospital emergency room (ER) due to a nagging facial rash, “allergist Yashu Dhamija, MD, a member of the ACAAI and lead author of the article, said.

“As of April 2020, his skin condition had been under control, but by wearing the mask, his symptoms began to manifest in areas that the suppliers weren’t used to yet.”

Their report was published in the journal Annals of allergy, asthma and immunology.

Skin allergies coincided with the pandemic and the use of masks

Contact dermatitis, explains Health24, is acute or chronic inflammation caused by skin contact with certain substances.

According to the report, the emergency room doctors who first saw the patient prescribed prednisone (a corticosteroid) for the rash.

When his symptoms did not go away, he underwent a follow-up telematic visit with the hospital’s allergy clinic.

Doctors later found that her skin allergies had started to flare up in April 2020, coinciding with the pandemic and her wearing the mask.

“We realized that her rash appeared right where the elastic parts of a mask would rest,” said allergist Kristin Schmidlin, MD, ACAAI member and co-author of the article.

“We reduced the prednisone and advised him to use a topical steroid and a topical immunosuppressant until the rash resolved.”

Common allergens found in masks

Doctors also told the patient to use cotton-based, dye-free masks with no elastic.

The patient had a follow-up telephone visit a week later and his rash was reported to have improved.

The authors note that common allergens that can affect contact dermatitis are found in masks, rubber bands, and other components of facial masks.

They advise people with existing skin allergies to consult their allergist.

“Your board-certified allergist can perform patch tests to identify specific components in the masks that could trigger symptoms,” they wrote.

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Image: Getty / Kseniya Ovchinnikova

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