What is Contact Dermatitis?

What is Contact Dermatitis?

Frank Litchenberger, MD, PhD, Medical Director at AD RescueWear

Have you ever noticed a red, irritated band of skin when you take off your watch, or had dry, cracked hands that sting and burn? Both are the result of contact dermatitis, a condition most people will experience at some point in life.

What Is Contact Dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is a rash that develops after you come into contact with a substance that irritates your skin or causes an allergic reaction. There are two types of contact dermatitis.

Irritant contact dermatitis

The most common form, irritant contact dermatitis is a rash that results from something that damages the top layer of your skin, such as:

  • Bleach
  • Detergents
  • Personal care products
  • Chemicals in household products (like pesticides and borax)
  • Even mild substances like water can cause skin damage after repeated exposure. People who frequently wash their hands (like nurses) and those whose hands are often wet (such as beauticians) are more likely to develop irritant contact dermatitis.

Allergic contact dermatitis

This condition happens when you have an immune response within minutes to hours after coming into contact with a substance. Unlike irritant contact dermatitis, this type of rash can also be triggered by something you ingested, such as food or medicine. Substances that often lead to allergic reactions include:

Nickel, which is commonly found in jewelry and metal buttons in jeans

Personal care products, especially:

  • Perfumes
  • Sunscreens
  • Dyes
  • Cosmetics
  • Plants, such as poison ivy and ragweed pollen

What Are the Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis creates inflamed, irritated skin that may be:

  • Red or swollen
  • Itchy or painful
  • Bumpy or blistered
  • Cracked or scaly

What Are the Treatments for Contact Dermatitis?

“If you have contact dermatitis, the most important thing to do is identify the source of irritation and eliminate it,”said Dr. Frank Lichtenberger, M.D., Ph.D., medical director at AD RescueWear. “The rash should clear up on its own after two to four weeks.”

However, you should see a doctor if:

  • Home remedies don’t alleviate discomfort
  • Pus oozes out of blisters
  • You have a fever

Your family doctor or dermatologist may recommend steroid creams or oral medications to relieve your symptoms, or antibiotics to treat an infection if one has developed.

Are There Any Home Remedies for Contact Dermatitis?

There are several things you can do at home to ease discomfort while you wait for your rash to heal, including:

  • Apply a non-prescription, anti-itch cream that contains at least one percent hydrocortisone to calm inflammation.
  • Use cold, wet compresses like dampened eczema sleeves or eczema gloves to relieve itching.
  • Take an over-the-counter allergy medication like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) if itching can’t be controlled by topical treatments.
  • Keep hands dry as much as possible if they are affected, and frequently apply lotion to moisturize skin and wear eczema gloves over the lotion. Eczema gloves can be purchases at www.adrescuewear.com.
  • Read this article on natural baths that control eczema https://www.adrescuewear.com/blog/baths-for-eczema-5-baths-to-bring-relief/ 

For more irritated-skin solutions, check out our full line of eczema products.

The Eczema Relief Store

NOTE:This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a consultation, diagnosis and/or medical treatment by a healthcare provider.