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A Not-So Protective Skin Barrier

I took my daughter to see an allergist for her suspected, now confirmed, milk, egg, and peanut allergies.  While we were there, the doctor told me how the eczema on her skin was making it possible for her to have contact reactions to these allergens as well.

Skin barrier dysfunction

It makes perfect sense and now seems like an obvious thing to me, but I hadn’t thought of it until the allergist described to me what was happening: When you’re having an eczema flare-up, your skin is damaged, and it isn’t working like the protective barrier that it should be. Since there are openings in your skin during a flare-up, it’s possible for allergens to sneak in through those openings, and voila!  It becomes a sort of a contact dermatitis issue with an allergen you thought had to be eaten to cause an allergic reaction.

Eczema damaged skin

This was sort of shocking news to me – I have had AD and various forms of eczema for as long as I can remember!  And I knew that eczema meant that my skin was damaged, but it seemed like an obvious thing – of course, it’s damaged!  I’m bleeding from cuts caused by my eczema!  It never occurred to me that this could be a pathway for bad things to sneak into my body, even after suffering from infections from flared-up skin.

Type 1 diabetes

I have several other autoimmune disorders along with AD; my biggest, most annoying one being Type 1 Diabetes.  To control my Diabetes, I use an insulin pump (I’m insulin dependent as a Type 1 Diabetic), and a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) to track my blood sugar.  If you’re unfamiliar with these technologies, that’s okay–my point here is that both of these items need to be stuck onto (and into) my skin: the pump site/cannula for three days, and the CGM for ten days.  Both products use a gluey tape/adhesive to stick to my skin.  And that stuff is made to last through showers, sweaty workouts, swimming, etc!

Allergies to adhesive

I have been having minor reactions to the adhesives for years, some times worse than others.  When the allergist told me about eczema leaving my skin open for allergens to enter, I started to think about my own skin care.  I don’t do a lot of special eczema care most of the time now because I live in a warmer, more humid climate.  My skin doesn’t seem that bad most of the time.  However, now that I think about it, my skin is probably compromised just enough for a stronger reaction to the adhesives than someone who doesn’t have eczema.  I also have a documented allergy to paper tape, which has many commonly used adhesives in it, possibly some of the same ones in my diabetic care products.

Caring for my eczema

Since my daughter’s appointment, I’ve started using my prescribed eczema creams on the areas of my skin that I use for my insulin pump sites (mostly my stomach and hips) and where I put my CGM (usually my upper arms or upper thighs) to help my skin recover between uses.  I’ve also taken steps to create a barrier (since my natural skin barrier isn’t working quite right) using special wipes before I put any adhesives on my skin.  This has helped my skin immensely.  I’ve also tried using a special adhesive solvent/remover that should make removal less painful and create fewer breaks in my skin, but with more limited success.

Any tricks up your sleeves?

Do you have to stick things to your skin for other medical conditions you have?  What ways have you found helpful in keeping your skin protected and in its best shape between adhesives?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AtopicDermatitis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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