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Some Face Masks Do Cause Serious Health Problems

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Some components of face masks contain allergens.

Patients with a history of contact dermatitis are advised to avoid these types of COVID-19 masks.


If you have had allergen skin issues that progressed from relatively mild contact dermatitis to severe eczema, a news release from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting 2020 reports that the rubber banding and other components of face masks you wore during the COVID-19 pandemic just might be the cause of your rashes.

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ER Case of Patient With Facial Rashes

According to the news release, an unusual case of skin rash complaints from one individual who failed to respond to typical treatments, required repeat visits for his condition.

“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 (ER) because of an uncomfortable face rash,” says allergist Yashu Dhamija, MD, ACAAI member and lead author of the paper. “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.”

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When treatment at the ER failed to resolve the skin rashes, a telehealth visit with the hospital’s allergy clinic uncovered the fact that the patient’s skin allergy problems coincided with the beginning of the pandemic and when he began wearing face masks for protection against COVID-19 infection.

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

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What To Do If You Have A History of Rashes

The news release states that “…common allergens that can affect contact dermatitis are found in masks, elastic bands, and other components of face masks...,” and recommend that individuals with a history of rashes, or an existing skin irritation of the face should consult with their allergist and seek patch testing that could identify whether the masks they are using could be the source of their skin irritation and other allergen-related symptoms.

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Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with an eye on the latest news, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on what you need to know for healthier living. For continual updates about health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image Source: Courtesy of Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

References: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Meeting Presentation Title: “Facial contact dermatitis due to masks in the COVID-19 era” Presenter: Yashu Dhamija, MD.