Allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), a delayed hypersensitivity skin reaction to environmental allergens, has a prevalence that is similar in children and adults.
However, diagnostic testing for ACD in pediatric populations accounts for less than one-tenth of all patch tests. The relative infrequency of pediatric patch testing may be attributed to the difficulty in testing in this population, which includes a smaller surface area for patch test placement and maintaining cooperation during patch testing especially in younger children.
Diagnosis can be difficult in children, as the appearance of ACD can mimic other common pediatric skin conditions, particularly atopic dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis.
Comprehensive history-taking, guided by patient presentation, age group, and location of dermatitis, helps build clinical suspicion. Such clinical suspicion is one of the major reasons behind patch testing, with additional indications being recalcitrant dermatitis and dermatitis with atypical distribution. U.S. pediatric data has revealed the top allergens to be metals, fragrances, topical antibiotics, preservatives, and emollients.
These trends are important to recognize to guide management and accurate diagnosis, as ACD tends to persist if the allergen is not identified and can affect patients' quality of life.