Background Disperse dyes (DDs) are the most common sensitizers among textile dyes, but there is little knowledge of the clinical relevance of positive patch test reactions.
Objective To investigate if patient-reported textile-related skin problems can be explained by contact allergy to eight different DDs and/or to chemically related substances, by occupation or by atopic constitution, and if the skin problems are influenced by age or sex.
Methods A questionnaire on textile-related skin problems was answered by 858 of 982 consecutively patch tested patients in Malmö, Sweden and in Leuven, Belgium. The baseline series used for patch testing was supplemented with a textile dye mix (TDM) consisting of the eight DDs and with the separate dyes. The association between textile-related skin problems and contact allergy to the DDs and other risk factors was investigated using multiple logistic regression analysis.
Results Eighteen per cent of the patients suspected textiles as a cause of their skin problems. Atopic constitution and female sex were risk factors for skin reactions. Synthetic materials were the most common textiles to give skin problems. A significant association was found between self-reported textile-related skin problems and contact allergy to para-phenylenediamine (PPD) [adjusted odds ratio (OR) 2·1; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1·0–4·3]. A similar, but more imprecise, adjusted OR was found for TDM (OR 1·9; 95% CI 0·57–5·6). Contact allergy to black rubber mix was too rare to be evaluated.
Conclusions Contact allergy to PPD was a more prevalent indicator for skin reactions to textiles than the TDM used in this study.