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Allergic contact dermatitis in children

Militello, Giuseppea; Jacob, Sharon Eb; Crawford, Glen Ha

doi: 10.1097/01.mop.0000236387.56709.6d

Purpose of review The following paper reviews the recent literature pertaining to allergic contact dermatitis in the pediatric population.

Recent findings Allergic contact dermatitis may affect as many as 20% of the pediatric population. Recent studies implicate the following chemicals as the most common causes: nickel, topical antibiotics, preservative chemicals, fragrances and rubber accelerators. Several less common, but emerging, allergens have also been reported recently, including para-phenylenediamine in henna tattoos, cocamidopropyl betaine in ‘no tears’ shampoos and cleansers, and disperse dyes in clothing materials. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs less frequently in the first few months of life and increases in prevalence with increasing age. In the adolescent age group, females have significantly higher rates of allergic contact dermatitis on the face. This is likely explained by increased exposures to nickel in piercings and to preservative and fragrance chemicals in cosmetic products.

Summary The documented rates of allergic contact dermatitis in children are on the rise. This increased prevalence may be due to increased chemical exposures in this age group, better recognition by pediatricians and perhaps more widespread use of epicutaneous patch testing. This review outlines the basic pathophysiology, epidemiology and clinical manifestations of allergic contact dermatitis in children.

aUniversity of Pennsylvania, Department of Dermatology, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

bUniversity of Miami, Department of Dermatology, Miami, Florida, USA

Correspondence to Glen H. Crawford, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania, 3600 Spruce Street/2 Rhoads Pavillion, Philadelphia, PA 19104 USA Tel: +215 662 2737; fax: +215 829 5430; e-mail:

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.