Ask the treatment expert: Are allergies to wound care products common?

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Susan Wickard, RN, BSN, CWCN, CWS, CLNC
Susan Wickard, RN, BSN, CWCN, CWS, CLNC
Q: Is it possible to be allergic to wound care products?

Years ago, this question wouldn't have even made our radar screen. However, now it seems a standard consideration since allergies have become increasingly prevalent.

Whereas in the past we would ask only if residents/patients were allergic to any medicines, now it is necessary to ask if they are allergic to any drugs, food, iodine, latex, etc. 

For instance, there are anesthesia drugs that can't be used if a patient is allergic to: eggs (propofol), fish — especially salmon (protamine), and shellfish (contrast dye or topical betadine). If someone is allergic to eggs, the flu vaccine is not to be administered. These are some common allergies most people may not consider.

Sometimes, if a wound is infected, silver sulfadiazine (Silvadene) may be a treatment of choice. However, if a patient is allergic to sulfa drugs, then it should be avoided. An alternative treatment could be bacitracin ointment or a silver hydrofiber dressing.

For wound care products made with honey for healing, the question becomes: If a patient is allergic to bees, should we be using this product? I have researched and found two answers: Yes and no.

One reference stated that if a patient has a known allergy to honey or bee venom, then honey dressings should be avoided. Another stated that some of the dressings that are made with honey use a medical grade that is filtered to remove pollen and other substances that may cause the reaction. The medical grade honey may have had the bacterial spores removed by sterilization.

This underscores the importance of fully reviewing the specific product's literature prior to its use and contacting the manufacturer if there is any question about potential allergy considerations.
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