Two kinds of skin allergies, or dermatitis, are caused by substances coming in contact with the skin: primary irritant dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. Primary irritant dermatitis is a non-allergic reaction of the skin resulting from exposure to an irritating substance. Allergic contact dermatitis is an allergic sensitization to various substances.
People who work in areas where their feet are exposed to repeated or prolonged contact to hot water, chemicals, oils, or wet cement can develop primary irritant dermatitis. Some solutions are safe if used properly. However, improper use can lead to a serious contact dermatitis. This is particularly dangerous for diabetics. For primary irritant dermatitis, soaking feet in solutions, such as bleach, vinegar, salt water, or Betadine, can be beneficial as long as excessive amounts are not used.
Allergic contact dermatitis is the result of exposure to substances that sensitize the skin. Each time the foot is exposed to the substance, an inflammatory reaction occurs. Some people are allergic to the substances in sock dyes or certain shoe materials. Adhesive tapes can cause an allergic reaction with blisters or a rash developing beneath the tape. Because of the heat and the accumulation of moisture beneath the tape, an acute Athlete’s Foot infection can also be caused by an allergic reaction to the adhesive. Treatments include the use of cool compresses, topical steroid compounds (like hydrocortisone creams), and antifungal creams.