Contact allergy and allergic contact dermatitis in children – a review of current data


Anne Birgitte Simonsen, Department of Dermatology and Venereology, Aarhus University Hospital, P. P. Orumsgade 11, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. Tel: +45 5136 0809; Fax: +45 8949 1860. E-mail:


Allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) in children was previously considered to be a rare occurrence. However, the growing number of case reports and cross-sectional studies through the past three decades indicate that ACD is, in fact, a highly relevant diagnosis in children. Furthermore, the frequency of ACD in children seems to be increasing. In 1999, a review of the literature reported prevalence rates of 14.5–70% in selected paediatric populations. The current paper reviews the studies on the prevalence of positive patch test reactions and ACD in the paediatric population during the past decade, and provides an overview of the main findings. We found reported sensitization rates of 26.6–95.6% in selected groups of children. The associated relevance was 51.7–100%. The most common allergens were nickel, cobalt, thimerosal, and fragrance. Tailored patch testing increases the rate of relevant patch test reactions. Children with atopic dermatitis are as frequently sensitized as children with no history of atopic dermatitis, and there are no differences associated with sex. Children and adults can be tested with equal concentrations of patch test allergens. Our findings may support the notion that the prevalence of ACD in children is increasing over time or indicate an increased awareness.