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What is dermatitis?
‘Contact Dermatitis’ is a term which describes a number of inflammatory skin conditions which arise from direct skin contact with an allergen or irritant. This contact causes the skin to become red, sore, swollen and blistered. Work related dermatitis is the same thing, though it is caused by contact with irritants in the workplace.
How is work-related dermatitis contracted?
Work related dermatitis can be contracted in two ways. Either through direct contact with an irritant, which can damage the top layers of skin resulting in blisters, sores etc. or by exposure to allergens in the workplace which can trigger an immune response in the skin.
The most common types of irritants which can cause dermatitis are chemicals and solvents and the most common types of allergens are dust, animal hair and enzymes.
If an individual is exposed to allergens or irritants in the workplace, it is likely that a rash will develop, usually on the hands, face and forearms. When the rash becomes itchy and it scratched, the skin can break which is then open for germs and bacteria to get it. This is why it is not uncommon for infections to develop.
The following substances are the most common to cause dermatitis when people come into contact with them:
- Hard or chlorinated water (particularly when hands are submerged in water or remain wet for long periods of time)
- Harsh soaps and detergents
- Abrasive cleaning fluids
- Machine oils
- Reducing agents
- Oxidising agents
- Acids and alkalis
- Certain plants and botanicals
What are the symptoms of work-related dermatitis?
After contact or exposure to irritants or allergens, symptoms usually appear after 48 hours. However, strong irritants may cause symptoms to appear straight away, and mild irritants (like certain soaps and detergents) may only cause symptoms is a person is exposed to them frequently.
Common symptoms of dermatitis are as follows:
- Redness of the skin
- Scaling/flaking of the skin
- Blisters on the skin
- General itchiness of the affected area
- General pain of the affected area
Some people find that they only experience one or two of the symptoms mentioned above. But there are cases where a sufferer will experience them all.
If your dermatitis becomes infected, which is common when the surface of the skin becomes broken, you may experience a number of the following:
- Discharge from your skin
- Increased pain of the area
- Feeling generally unwell
- Having a high temperature
- Your existing symptoms getting rapidly worse
If you experience any of these symptoms then you should see your GP as soon as possible as it is likely you will need treatment for the infection.
How to diagnose and treat dermatitis
If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above then you should see your GP to get a diagnosis. He or she will examine your skin and ask if you have had any contact with any possible irritants.
If it is unclear why you have developed dermatitis, for example, if the allergens or irritants responsible cannot be identified, then you may be referred to a specialist who will perform certain tests to identify the trigger.
Once your doctor has confirmed dermatitis, he or she will offer you treatment. This could include:
- Emollients – Moisturising treatments which are applied directly to the skin and come in the form of creams, lotions or ointments.
- Topical corticosteroids – A cream/lotion/ointment containing steroids and can be used as well as emollients. These are usually prescribed for more severe dermatitis.
- Oral corticosteroids – For cases of extreme dermatitis where it covers a large area of your skin, these may be prescribed and come in tablet form.
As well as the above, it is important that whilst treating your dermatitis you avoid further contact or exposure to irritants or allergens. Failure to do this can result in your symptoms taking much longer to heal or your condition getting much worse.
Who is at risk of contracting work-related dermatitis?
Professions which are most at risk of developing work-related dermatitis are:
- Hairdressers and beauticians
- Metal workers
- Dental practitioners
- Cooks, chefs and catering workers
- People working in the glass, rubber, chemical and ceramic manufacturing industries
Can work-related dermatitis be prevented?
All employers are required by law to conduct risk assessments in the workplace, whilst also ensuring the workplace is safe for all members of staff. If any employees are expected to come into contact with irritants or allergens as part of their day to day duties, they should be provided with sufficient safety equipment and personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and respirators.
In addition, employees much receive health and safety training so that they are fully aware of all hazards in the workplace. They should then take the necessary steps to limit any exposure to harmful substances.
Can I make a claim for work-related dermatitis?
If your contact dermatitis should prevent you from continuing with work, and the reason it developed was through someone else’s negligence (i.e. your employer), then you may be entitled to make a claim.
Get in touch with CL Legal today to start your claim: