Allergic contact dermatitis to tea tree oil with erythema multiforme-like id reaction.


Khanna M, Qasem K, Sasseville D.




Am J Contact Dermat


The commercial production of tea tree oil, extracted from Melaleuca alternifolia Cheel, has considerably increased over the past 15 years in response to a strong demand for natural remedies and aromatic substances. The number of case reports that describe allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) to this essential oil is also on the rise. We report an additional case of ACD to tea tree oil that presented with an extensive erythema multiforme-like reaction. A skin biopsy was performed from a targetlike lesion distant from the site of the initial dermatitis. The patient was treated with systemic and topical corticosteroids. Five months later, he was patch tested to the North American standard series, to his own tea tree oil, to a fresh batch of tea tree oil, and to some related allergens. The skin biopsy showed a spongiotic dermatitis without histological features of erythema multiforme. Patch testing elicited a 3+ reaction to old, oxidized tea tree oil, a 2+ reaction to fresh tea tree oil, a 2+ reaction to colophony, a 1+ reaction to abitol, and a 1+ reaction to balsam of Peru. We believe this is the first report of erythema multiforme-like reaction secondary to ACD from tea tree oil. Other interesting features are the stronger reaction to oxidized than to fresh tea tree oil, and concomitant reactivity to colophony, abitol, and balsam of Peru.