Contact Dermatitis

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

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.


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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.