In the office today I saw a patient with a common post-plastic-surgery ailment. She had a tummy tuck two months ago and is looking superb. However, she came in to see me because of redness, itching and dry skin around her belly button. The first thing I asked her was if she was putting Neosporin, a common antibiotic cream, on that area. “Yes,” she proudly told me; after all, a good patient should take care of their incisions during the healing period. Of course, that was the cause of the skin irritation—an allergy to the antibiotic cream. She will stop using it and in a few days will be all better!

There has been an explosion in the past twenty years in the number of allergic reactions patients show to environmental allergens (stimuli) related to healthcare. The first that I remember was patients saying they were allergic to Betadine, an iodine-based skin antiseptic commonly used before surgeries. This allergy has become so common that multiple alternatives have come on the market.

Latex Allergy

Next came the exponential growth in allergies suffered by nurses and surgeons as well as others to Latex. Most gloves used in surgical procedures, doctor’s offices and health clinics are Latex-based.There has been an increasing number of allergies to this material, and a whole new line of Latex-free medical paraphernalia, much more than just gloves, have come onto the market to deal with this.

Antibiotic allergy

The latest exponential growth is allergy to neomycin, the common antibiotic found in a multitude of antibiotic creams found in the over-the-counter shelves of drug stores. After using it for a few days, patients get the typical small blisters, redness, itchiness and oozing skin that then flakes off.

Toxins in the environment

Why is all of this happening? It could be that there are different manufacturing processes being used in our global economy that lead to impurities in the materials. After all, we have heard of Chinese companies implicated in horrendous acts of profiteering at our health’s expense already. It could also be that our own environment, the air we breathe, water we drink, food we eat, etc., has changed, causing our bodies to react in a different way to the same stimuli. It could also be a combination of both of these factors, in which case we will be scratching more than our heads to figure out what is going on.

Washington DC, Northern Virginia, Maryland

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