More adults that you would initially think are affected by skin hazards. There are hundreds of chemicals and toxins that can create burns, rashes and more. Current research states that 13 million workers are exposed to chemicals within the United States. These chemicals can all be absorbed by the skin and lead to damage and illnesses. Current steps to protect against the skin coming into contact are minimal and dangerous.
But it’s not just about the workplace. There are skin hazards in the home that many people ignore or forget about. Some are those that people don’t even realize are problems. They can lead to irritation, rashes, inflammation and more.
Here’s a look at the top seven skin hazards that you really should know about, both at work and in the home.
Irritant Contact Dermatitis
There are two forms of contact dermatitis that you need to be aware of, and the first of those is irritant contact dermatitis (ICD). It’s a non-immunological reaction, usually leading to the inflammation of the skin. The problem arises when the skin has been exposed to a hazardous agent and is direct damage to the skin. Most of the time, the reaction will be localized to where the skin was affected.
Around 80% of contact dermatitis in the workplace is due to ICD. The toxins can affect from the air or through a liquid directly on the skin.
Most of issues in the home are also ICD. They involve chemicals being placed on the skin, causing redness and inflammation. Sometimes the irritation is mild, but it can be severe and cause some permanent damage if not treated properly afterward.
In some cases, the problem arises when the skin comes into regular contact with mild chemicals. This is especially a problem for cleaning products. You won’t necessarily see a reaction at first, but over time this reaction gets worse. However, acute exposures can also happen and create the same outcome but in a shorter time.
Some of the most common occupations that lead to ICD include hairdressers, cleaners, those in the food industry, metal workers and tanning companies.
While inflammation is the first symptom noticed this could lead to other skin problems. Many patients complain of bullas and vesicles developing, and there are cases of the pigmentation changing, leading to the look of the skin tanning in spots.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
The second most common skin hazard to look out for is allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), which is the second form of contact dermatitis. This has the same inflammation symptom as ICD, but for a different reason. Instead of the skin reacting directly to the chemicals, the body develops an allergic reaction to the product. This is common in those who work with acrylic resins and some agrochemicals like fertilizers and pesticides. While it can appear in the home, it’s most common within the occupational setting.
Like all allergic reactions, more exposure to a chemical leads to the reaction getting worse. Over time, the body develops a hypersensitivity to the same exposure, triggering the immune system to get rid of the virus or toxin. Of course, there’s nothing to kill, so the allergic reaction remains until the body can naturally remove the toxin from the body.
Patients can go for months or years without seeing a reaction. Then suddenly the inflammation and redness can start to form. This eventually gets worse and worse over time, and other allergic reaction symptoms can be noticed.
It’s possible for the symptoms to be mistaken for ICD at first. Doctors will need to take skin patches to determine if it’s an allergic reaction or not.
A rare form of ACD is photoallergic contact dermatitis. This is when the chemicals only become a problem when exposed to ultraviolet light. This is common in the cleaning and beauty industries.
Airborne Contact Dermatitis (ABCD)
This is rare but still possible. The condition usually appears around the neck, eyes, and face and is a form of irritant contact dermatitis. It happens when airborne chemicals react with the skin. Even areas that are clothed can suffer from some irritation, as the chemicals can get underneath the clothing. This is especially common with environment dust in woodwork, cement work, and glass fiber work.
Some can also get the issue through allergic contact dermatitis. The reaction is still gained the same way but can take months or years to become symptomatic.
ACD remains more common in workers when it comes to ABCD. This is purely due to the excessive exposure to the chemicals. ABCD of an ICD nature is common in the home. Those who do woodwork hobbies can find the dust causes problems, especially if the airborne particles get into the eyes. It’s important to wear the right safety equipment when doing hobbies, but even that isn’t the way to prevent it all.
Contact urticaria (CU) can sometimes be mistaken for ACD. Some of the symptoms are the same, especially as the allergic reactions grow and develop. In fact, there is an allergy element to CU, which makes it harder for some doctors to diagnose.
CU shows up as hives and itching, which is where it gets its name—hives are medically known as urticaria. The hives appear due to contact with chemicals and toxins, leading to reactions within the body.
The symptoms will usually appear much sooner than if you were suffering from ACD. Most patients notice the symptoms within an hour of meeting the chemical compound. Some patients also notice other, more severe, symptoms, including asthma, rhinitis, and conjunctivitis. In rare cases, anaphylaxis can also occur.
There is a non-allergic version of CU, which is when the chemicals trigger the release of histamines directly, creating the symptoms.
This is a condition noticed in some food workers, woodworkers and in the healthcare industry. The condition appears due to proteins in foods, plants, and products. Latex is one of the most common and is often noted as an allergy to latex gloves and other products with latex in them.
However, the acids in fruits, compounds in dyes and additives and nettles can also create CU. Some people outside of the workplace can suffer the issues, but it is more common in the workplace.
The only way to avoid CU is to avoid the allergens. This means changing jobs for some people and isn’t possible. However, workplaces can also help, by removing latex products where there is a latex allergy.
Bacterial Skin Infections
Occupational skin hazards can include the contact of bacterial skin infections. This can be caused by the likes of Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria, which lead to pus and inflammation within the skin. The most common occupations to suffer from these types of skin infections are those who work in sewers, with cars and other commonly dirty environments. In some cases, butchers and slaughterhouse workers can also experience the conditions.
There is also the risk of meeting infected personnel. Therefore those in the healthcare setting wear gloves and use antibacterial washes to ensure they remain as well as possible. It’s possible for colonization of the microorganisms to take place within the body. In some cases, the bacteria become resistant to the antibiotics, which is when more health problems arise. This happened recently with the growth of MRSA.
However, it does not just work places that can lead to issues with bacterial infections. People at home can too if they meet the health issues. Living in a dirty, unhygienic home can cause risks of the bacterial infections becoming a problem.
The symptoms will differ depending on the exact type of infection taking hold. In some, the skin becomes inflamed, usually around the underlying connective tissues. This is common in Erysipeloid. In other cases, the lymph nodes are affected, and skin lesions appear. They tend to look like warms. This is common in skin tuberculosis, known as granulomatous, which is a slow-growing bacterial infection and common in animal handlers more than healthcare workers.
Those with some autoimmune conditions can find they suffer more bacterial skin infections. Their bodies can’t fight against the bacteria as well as would hope.
There are also parasitic skin diseases, which are more common due to occupation than in the workplace. They’re common through bites, from the likes of granary mites and animal parasites, and are extremely common in those who work in agriculture.
Scabies is one bacterial skin infection to look out for, which is often transmitted to vets and other animal handlers. The mites will jump from the animals to people, and bury themselves into the wrist, arms and even neck.
Control of the bacterial and parasitic infections is essential. It won’t usually mean a change of job but acting to prevent the conditions causing an issue in the future. If left untreated, the bacterial infections can be deadly.
Fungal and Viral Skin Infections
Another type of skin hazard is meeting fungal or viral infections. There are little people can do about a lot of viral infections, as there are minimal treatments. You just must wait for your body to take its cause.
Most of the viral infections are found in those who deal with cows, goats and other animals that need milking. It’s commonly called Miler’s nodules, caused by a virus known as Paravaccinia. The viral skin infection shows up as a wound that heals quickly. It can sometimes develop under the skin but doesn’t leave a scar behind. Inflammation can also appear. Most of the time, there is no lasting damage.
Fungal skin hazards are different and are common in workers and people at home. One of the most common is ringworm, which looks more like a bacterial infection. It can affect the whole body and is very easily transferred if you don’t take steps to look after it. Most of the time you’ll see an itchy area of skin that has a rash that looks like rings (hence the name).
Another fungal infection is caused by a yeast called Candida. This can appear as a spotty rash and is also extremely itchy. It’s sometimes referred to as jock itch or athletes foot and appears in areas that usually get warm and damp. Those who are overweight can also see them appear between the rounds of fat or underneath the belly and breasts.
When it comes to occupations, fungal infections are common in those who work within wet or sweaty industries. Athletes also tend to suffer from them.
Treating the fungal infections is important. You can use over the counter medications and should also avoid using a towel to dry the affected area and then the rest of the body. The fungus sticks around for a long time and can easily transfer to the rest of the body.
Temperature Skin Hazards
Finally, you need to look out for temperature skin hazards. The cold and the heat can both directly affect individuals, both at work and in the home. In fact, temperature hazards are extremely common for those outside of the work.
The heat can lead to some health concerns. One of those is the burning of the skin. There’s only so much direct heat the skin can manage, and it will become inflamed, damaged and scarred if you allow too much heat in the area. However, it’s not just about the liquids or products that can cause burns and problems.
Milaria is one of the most common heat problems for those in and out of work. It’s a sweat issue, causing itchy rashes that are small and localized. Many people refer to the rashes as prickly heat or sweat rashes.
This can sometimes be confused for heat urticaria, which causes non-allergic hives due to intense heat and physical exercise. Those who partake in running, exercise classes and other similar activities are more likely to suffer from heat urticaria, but it can be avoided. It’s also common in those who do outside jobs, as the body is more likely to sweat. The best thing to do is wear clothing that will help to remove the sweat from the body, instead of absorbing and creating a sweaty barrier.
Then there’s the cold. Cold temperatures cause the skin’s blood vessels to narrow, which can create the fingers to seize and the joints to become painful. Many people wonder if they suffer from Raynaud’s disease and while the symptoms can mimic it, they are mostly just temporary. Frostbite is also a skin hazard, which can be extremely dangerous for those outside for prolonged periods of time.
Those doing outside work in the cold are more likely to suffer from this. It’s important to follow safety advice to wrap up warm with layers and avoid too much direct exposure to the outside. Many workplaces are taking steps to help their workers, but that outside of work also need to take steps.
Protect Yourself from the Hazards
Knowing the skin hazards is important. By knowing about them and what they look like, you can take steps to get medical help when you need to. It’s also possible to know what you’re more likely to suffer from and take steps to prevent them becoming an issue.