Eczema?? Very dry skin problem on hands..HELP!

Jack Campin jack at purr.demon.co.uk
Tue Nov 18 05:41:10 EST 1997


czar at dhc.net (unknown) writes:
> Help...if you can please.... A female friend of mine started having...
> what the doctors believe to be eczema.  Her hands..the underside 
> mainly...get VERY dry and crackly.  For some reason, tanning helps some. 
> The doctors have done some allergy testing but could find nothing.  It 
> started about 2 years ago when she started a job as an administrative 
> assistant.

I get stuff like this on my hands.  Some of it just seems to be over-
activity on the part of my immune system; this takes months to build
up and can be fixed in a week of so of heavy application of *powerful*
glucocorticoid ointment (fluocinolone under an airtight dressing; even
betamethasone doesn't touch the inflammation on my palms).

But there's another thing that can set it off for me, which exactly fits
your friend's experience: photocopy toner.  If I handle xerox copy when it's
still warm from the copier I will, every time, get itchy scaly dermatitis
on my palms, knuckles and fingers within 3 days.  I can feel inflammation
starting within half an hour.

Tanning works by immunosuppression.  Not a healthy approach if she can
avoid it.  The best prevention I've found is never to handle xerox copies
until they've been cold for a few hours.  In theory rubber gloves ought
to help but in practice nobody is going to do an office job wearing them
all day.  I can handle mountains of cold xerox copies and not have a problem.
And for god knows what reason, laser printers don't seem to be as bad.  (They
use identical chemical technology.  Maybe on average less toner per sheet,
or perhaps the physical design of the machine reduces the allergen level on
the output).  Sometimes washing my hands immediately after handling warm
copy prevents an attack, but this never works if I've had to deal with
more than fifty pages or so.

I have never heard of any allergy test for hot xerox toner and have no idea
what the chemical responsible is.

The allergen that first set this off for me was one that your average PA is
not likely to meet with: kidney fat in warm sheep carcases (I was working
in a slaughterhouse at the time).  Maybe there's some systematic cross-
reactivity between xerox machines and freshly dead sheep?

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