Individuals with skin allergies can trigger contact dermatitis by wearing a mask, although wearing one prevents transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to a case presented at this year’s virtual American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting.

"We treated a 60-year-old Black man with adult-onset eczema, contact dermatitis and chronic nasal allergies in our clinic after he presented three times to our hospital emergency room because of an uncomfortable face rash," said allergist and lead study author Yashu Dhamija, MD, in a press release. "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 patient was prescribed prednisone for the rash when he was seen by emergency department physicians, and a follow up telehealth visit with the hospital’s allergy clinic was done when the patient’s symptoms were not relieved. Further investigation found that his skin allergies began to flare in April 2020, coinciding with the pandemic and his mask-wearing, according to the study.

"We realized that his rash appeared right where the elastic parts of a mask would rest," said allergist and study co-author Kristin Schmidlin, MD, in a press release. "We tapered down the prednisone and advised him to use a topical steroid and a topical immunosuppressant until the rash resolved. We 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."

Additionally, the study authors noted 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, who can perform patch testing to help identify specific components in masks that may be triggering symptoms.

Some allergens that cause contact dermatitis are found in masks that prevent COVID-19. EurekAlert! Published November 13, 2020. Accessed November 13, 2020.