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Authors: Dr Sarajane Ting, General Practitioner, Wellington, New Zealand; A/Prof Rosemary Nixon, Dermatologist, Melbourne, Australia. DermNet NZ Editor in Chief: Adjunct A/Prof Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand. Copy edited by Gus Mitchell. September 2019.
Airborne contact dermatitis refers to acute and chronic dermatitis of exposed parts of the body, especially the face, caused by particles suspended in the air. These particles may include fibres, dust, vapours, sprays, gases, and plant materials .
Contact dermatitis is defined as airborne based on the following factors:
Airborne contact dermatitis includes:
Apart from resulting in dermatitis, airborne skin disease can also present as:
Airborne contact dermatitis can affect anyone; it is seen more commonly in occupations associated with exposure to known allergens (see occupational skin disease).
Workers in the following industries are more commonly affected:
The sources of airborne contact dermatitis may be occupational or non-occupational. Some common causal agents of airborne contact dermatitis are listed below [3,6–8].
Allergens that can induce allergic contact dermatitis include:
Airborne irritants that induce airborne contact dermatitis include:
Photoallergic reactions that can induce airborne contact dermatitis include:
Potential airborne allergens that can induce contact urticaria may include:
The distribution of airborne contact dermatitis is usually symmetrical. The exposed areas are most commonly affected, including the face, dorsal hands, neck, upper chest, and forearms. Eyelid dermatitis is common and can be the only affected site [1,6]. Occasionally, covered areas can also be affected due to the accumulation of airborne particles under the garments .
Common symptoms of airborne contact dermatitis include itching, burning, and stinging.
Airborne contact dermatitis usually presents with diffuse scaly erythematous macules but plaques may also occur. Sometimes a pustular rash can occur as a result of secondary bacterial infection .
The diagnosis of airborne contact dermatitis can be difficult. The diagnosis relies on taking a comprehensive clinical history, the timeline of the symptoms, consideration of occupational and non-occupational exposures, and on finding the characteristic distribution and morphology of the rash on physical examination .
Tests that can be considered are:
Airborne contact dermatitis should be distinguished from the following conditions:
The treatment for airborne contact dermatitis depends on the specific cause. After identifying the specific substance causing airborne contact dermatitis, every effort should be made to reduce the exposure to it. A change of job or residence is sometimes necessary to reduce exposure .
Other measures include:
For severe cases, treatment can include:
Airborne contact dermatitis can result in a significant impact on patients’ quality of life. Complete recovery can often be achieved with avoidance of further exposure, but in severe cases such as parthenium dermatitis, immunosuppression is often required . Some patients may progress to chronic actinic dermatitis .
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