Contact dermatitis is a red, itchy rash that presents on the skin after direct contact with an irritating substance. The irritant can be diagnosed as an allergic reaction or a chemical that your skin came into contact with. The affected skin can have blistering, dryness, swelling, open sores, burning, and tenderness. Many natural and artificial chemicals can trigger this reaction, however it is often connected to soaps, perfumes, new products that you have recently incorporated into your life, or exposure to poisonous plants and chemicals. Contact dermatitis can range from mild to severe and may require further testing to properly diagnose and treat.
There are two major types of contact dermatitis
- Allergic contact dermatitis is caused when the skin comes into contact with a chemical or substance the skin is naturally sensitive to. It typically only affects the area of the skin where the chemical came into direct contact with, but it can spread if the allergen was ingested through food or medications. Allergic contact dermatitis can present as red skin, hives, and extreme itchiness.
- Irritant contact dermatitis is caused when the skin comes into contact with a harmful or toxic chemical. It is typically associated with sanitization products including bleach, detergents, and industrial solvents. Irritant contact dermatitis is a nonallergic reaction that can damage your skin’s outer layer.
- Itchy skin
- Dry, cracked skin
- Bumps or blisters
- Open sores
There are many treatments available to help relieve contact dermatitis symptoms and repair the damaged skin. If you believe you have developed contact dermatitis, it is imperative to refrain from touching the skin and irritating it further. With proper treatment, major symptoms will clear up in a short period of time; roughly two to three weeks. Preventative care is just as important. Recommendations include incorporating moisturizers into your daily skin routine, avoiding irritating chemicals, wearing protective gear around harsh chemicals, and regularly washing your hands after contact with those products. Talk to your dermatologist about the following treatment options available to you:
- Oral antihistamines
- Creams or ointments
- Patch testing
- Cool compresses. Your dermatologist will explain how to use these effectively
- Medicated lotions