Eczema and Patch Testing for Allergies

Eczema and Patch Testing for Allergies

Jennie Lyon

Eczema & Patch Testing

If you have a child with eczema - patch testing can help you learn what to avoid in their environment.  Avoidance of allergens is the best method to prevent eczema.

Allergies are the bane of millions of people all across America. They cause red eyes, plugged noses, trouble breathing… and of course, eczema. Nothing is worse than discovering that you have inadvertently touched something and find that your skin has started to turn red and painful. You can take allergy drugs, use topical creams, but the reality is that the main way to prevent those kind of reactions is avoidance. There are a few problems, of course. Symptoms of eczema often don’t show until many hours after the initial contact, and keeping track of everything you’ve touched over the course of a week would be impossible. But how else can you figure out what you are allergic to if not by using trial and error?

Patch testing is a simple and painless (though potentially uncomfortable) test where multiple small aluminum discs containing deluded samples of various allergens are stuck to your back for up to 48 hours. These allergens range from common chemicals to more specialized ingredients that can go into perfumes or creams. Attached with hypoallergenic tape, you should avoid getting your back wet for the two days required for your body to absorb the allergen, so no showering or exercise! After 48 hours, you return to the doctor to have the patches removed. They will inspect your back for some preliminary results, but full contact dermatitis might not appear for a few more days. At the end if a week, you come back and the doctor will check your back to find the areas where a substance has caused redness, itchiness, or any other kind of irritation. These areas are rated from a negative reaction, where nothing has occurred, to an extreme reaction that could require the use of a topical steroid to calm.  

Anyone who suffers from eczema and is not sure of the exact cause should have a patch test. The knowledge gained will give both you and your doctor an edge in avoiding potential eczema outbreaks in the future. Like many medical tests, patch testing is not 100% accurate and occasionally false negatives can occur. It also only tests for eczema/skin reactions; it will not work for food allergies. The testing shouldn’t be at all dangerous, but please keep alert. Try to avoid scratching or applying any kind of topical steroid until after your final visit to the doctor. After going through all of that discomfort, you want to make sure your results are as accurate as possible!

Keep in mind that eczema has many causes, and contact with a potential allergen is only one of them. But for long-time suffers, patch testing might give them the knowledge to improve their condition and avoid major breakouts in the future.

Talk to your doctor or your child's doctor about patch testing.  They most likely will refer you to an allergist that treats eczema.