Stocking allergy

There is a limited group of people allergic to compression stockings. This type of reaction falls within the so-called contact, allergic or atopic dermatitis.

This is due to an allergic reaction to some components present in the stockings that can be irritating in susceptible people, acting as allergens capable of triggering an inflammatory reaction in them. Compression stockings are available in a wide variety of fabric blends including cotton, wool, polyester, etc.

What are compression stockings made of?

The stockings are made of various materials that allow you to provide the desired compression that seeks to provide them with softness, make them durable, elastic, fast drying, resistant to abrasion and with good thermoregulation. These materials include:

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  • Natural rubber or latex which is the most common element in the manufacture of these garments and the one most associated with allergies
  • Nylon or polyamide: What is polyamide? It is the product that revolutionized the stockings market in 1938 when Nylon stockings came into production. The nylon is strong and elastic, does not wrinkle and dries quickly.
  • Lycra (elastane) of great elasticity and high resistance, often its filament is covered with polyamide.
  • Silk that has a magnificent thermoregulation (hotter in winter and cooler in summer)
  • Micro-fiber (also with good thermoregulation capacity), is manufactured using polyester or nylon. It is very breathable and repels moisture.
  • Spandex. What is Spandex? It is a fiber that provides extreme elasticity which generates comfort. It can expand up to eight times its size and return to its initial shape without suffering any apparent alteration.
  • It also works in stockings with superelastic fibers made with nickel-titanium alloy (NiTinol) covered with elastane and cotton fibers, among other types.

Many other compressors with these materials include: vests, pants, girdles and bandages, among others.

Health is not everything, but without it, everything else is nothing.

Schopenhauer

What causes an allergy to stockings?

Although allergy to some component of the manufacture of the stocking is possible, so is an allergy to other substances applied to the legs such as creams or fragrances, soaps, detergents, contact with metals or even reactions to certain foods as we will see later.

Among the fibers with which the stockings are produced, latex, spandex and nylon (nylon) are among the textile fibers that produce the most allergies, more so by the former and less by the others. At this point it should be clarified that almost any material with which these compression socks are manufactured is susceptible to causing an allergic reaction, although these three are the ones that do it more frequently.

Let’s see below the skin lesions caused by these allergies.

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What are eczemas?

The word eczema is used for a type of inflammatory skin reaction caused by exogenous or endogenous stimuli. The acute phase of eczema is characterized by the appearance of erythematous (reddish) and edematous (swollen) lesions that generate itching (pruritus), on which vesicles appear that break easily and leave scabs.

Eczema Phases

In the subacute phase, flaking begins. Flaking and lichenification predominate in the chronic phase. Eczema can disappear without leaving residual lesions and is usually accompanied by intense itching. There are some of these lesions that have a genetically based predisposition.

Eczema Phases

Eccema fase 1
Erythema
Eccema fase 2
Blisters
Eccema fase 3
Flaking

What is contact dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is eczema caused by chemicals exogenous to the body.

Latex or rubber allergy

What is latex?

Latex is a compound that is extracted from the sap of the Hevea brasiliensis plant, commonly called the rubber tree. This whitish liquid is subjected to industrial processing that uses heat and chemicals to obtain rubber, a material that is flexible, resistant and waterproof.

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Latex materials are more allergenic the thinner they are (for instance: gloves). In modern life, rubber abounds in the materials we use, and it is often found in much of the sanitary material such as gloves, probes, stockings, venous catheters, condoms, etc.

In the case of stockings, the most frequent allergen is latex, so to avoid it we must acquire compression stockings that are free of this element and try them.

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Forms of contact with latex

Direct contact: When a person is allergic to latex, he shows skin symptoms when touched, or respiratory symptoms when inhaling small particles of this compound (for example, when breathing air that has been inside a latex balloon).

Indirect contact: There can also be symptoms of indirect contact as it happens when we eat food that has been prepared by people who wear latex gloves.

New objects that release more latex particles induce a greater allergic reaction than old ones that have been washed, it should be noted that latex stockings as they “age” can release rubber particles so they remain allergenic.

How many people are allergic to latex?

The prevalence in the population is higher the more people are exposed to latex:

  • In the general population, latex allergy is found between 1 and 4% of people,
  • In workers in industries that manufacture products with latex: 6 – 11%.
  • Health personnel in contact with gloves, probes, etc .: 2.7 – 38%.
  • Children who had surgery, who require the use of several latex probes: 32 – 64%

From: Ras Monleón RM, Riera Ras P. Alergia al látex. Semergen. 2006;32(10):494-498.

Latex allergy symptoms

In general they are symptoms similar to the rest of allergies. The syndromes associated with reactions to latex can be divided into three categories:

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a) contact dermatitis: limited to the skin directly in contact with the latex,

b) contact urticaria syndrome, a wide spectrum of reactions including not only immediate hives and rashes. also dyshidrotic vesiculation, and accelerated contact reactions including erythema, burning, or itching within 10-30 minutes after contact.

c) systemic allergic reactions, including generalized urticaria or pruritus, angioedema, rhinoconjunctivitis or asthma, cough, wheezing, fatigue, as well as multiple presentations of anaphylaxis

Foods that could cross react with latex

There are foods with components similar to those of latex and with which you can have cross reactions, this is known as Latex-Fruit syndrome.

A person with a latex allergy may have symptoms if they eat them, or someone allergic to these foods may start having allergies by exposing themselves to gums or latex. It should be noted that not all patients have cross reactivity.

Among the most frequent allergens that cause this type of cross reaction are:

Foods with cross reaction to Latex
More frequent
Banana, chestnut, kiwi and avocado
Less frequent
Passion fruit, apricot, mango, peach, melon, papaya, potato, pineapple, peanut, tomato and figs

When to suspect of a latex allergy?

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Latex allergy should be suspected of when acute symptoms occur after wearing a stocking that is not free of this element (latex-free stockings). It should also be ruled out in people with previous allergy symptoms of unknown cause. To confirm this suspicion, skin tests should be performed to show if there is an allergy to latex or other common allergens.

What to do in case of allergy to stockings?

The first point to consider when treating an allergy is to remove the agent that causes it. There are some other products that can lead to cross reactivity that should also be avoided.

If a dermatitis with vesicles and redness has developed, it is advisable to go to the dermatologist who will indicate the topical and anti-inflammatory treatment (possibly steroids) that will help you to improve your condition.

You should avoid using moisturizers with fragrances or parabens.

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Finding Antiallergic Compression Stockings

Compression stockings with these characteristics really protect against latex allergy. The best brands have taken care of making latex-free stockings like the ones you see on this page.

How to know the causes of skin allergies?

To find out if there is contact dermatitis, the test is used with a patch that contains chemicals that are frequently causes of allergies and whose reaction after applied to the skin (usually on the back) is examined after 48 hours.

Up to 40 substances such as nickel, perfumes or fabric components can be included in these patches.

Treatment of Allergy to stockings

It is good to understand that there is still no definitive cure for latex allergy, however, injuries can heal and we must take preventive measures so that it does not happen again, avoiding exposure to it.

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  1. RESCUE TREATMENT: It is used urgently to treat the acute allergic reaction for which various drugs are used, such as: antihistamines, corticosteroids, bronchodilators (when it affects the respiratory system), and even adrenaline in case of anaphylaxis, etc. It must be indicated by the doctor.
  2. PREVENTIVE TREATMENT: It is based on a series of very important preventive measures to limit subsequent contacts with latex, the more contact the more sensitization and the worse the subsequent reactions could be
  • Avoid latex wear stockings that do not have it, as well as avoid contact of any other latex object with your skin, mucous or airways.
  • If you touch an object with latex, wash your hands with plenty of water.
  • Look at the labels of the products you will wear to see if they contain latex.
  • In your work area you should not be in contact with latex, if so you must promote a change that takes you away from this contact.
  • Ask your allergist for a list of products that may contain latex and another list of alternative products free of it that you could use.
  • If you are going to have surgery performed on varicose veins (or any other type of surgery), the operation must be performed in a safe environment for latex in the operating room, following the guidelines established for this type of allergy.
  1. TREATING THE CAUSE: the use of a latex allergy vaccine is limited as it has not been completely effective and has even been shown to induce adverse reactions.

For patients who have presented severe episodes due to contact with latex (Anaphylaxis), it is suggested to have self-administered epinephrine under medical indication and they must be prepared or trained on how to use it.

It is recommended that those allergic to any substance wear a medal, plate or bracelet that notifies of their allergy.

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Other substances in stockings that have been associated with allergies

Substances other than latex or fabric fibers, mentioned above, have been associated with allergies in people who wear compression stockings:

Allergic reactions to stockings by tissue preservatives have been described against bacteria and fungi such as octylisothiazolinone.

Silicone rim compression stockings

Many compression stockings to the thigh have silicone bands as anti-slip to keep them in place, there are some people who can have allergic reactions to the silicone band, even if it is one of the materials that causes the least allergies.

The allergic reaction is observed where the skin comes into contact with the support band and the treatment is the same as previously indicated.

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