Contact dermatitis is one of the most common skin conditions out there. It develops when an allergen or irritant comes into contact with your skin and triggers an inflammatory reaction.
Recognizing the symptoms is a good way to narrow down possible causes of your symptoms if you suspect that you may have contact dermatitis. Remember that the only way to know for sure is to see a specialist.
What is contact dermatitis?
In simple terms, contact dermatitis is a type of skin rash that develops when your skin comes in contact with chemicals or substances that trigger an irritant or allergic reaction. We divide it into two types:
Irritant contact dermatitis
This is by far the most common form, accounting for more than 80% of cases. Irritant contact dermatitis occurs following the exposure of irritants to susceptible skin.
Allergic contact dermatitis
Sometimes the skin becomes sensitized to an allergen. When this happens, you may develop a rash after coming into contact with specific allergens. Reactions may be immediate or delayed.
Common irritant dermatitis triggers
Substances that irritate the skin can vary widely from person to person. However, certain chemicals are more likely to cause problems for patients with irritant contact dermatitis than others. These are:
- Household cleaners
- Fabric dryer sheets
- Facial creams
Common allergic triggers
Allergens affect each person differently; not everyone is allergic to the same substances. Some of the most common triggers for allergic contact dermatitis are:
- Hair dye
- Clothing dyes
Contact Dermatitis Prevention
The best way to prevent contact dermatitis is by knowing what allergens or irritants make you break out and avoiding them. If you come into contact with any allergens or irritants, wash them off as soon as possible to reduce your risk of a reaction.
If you’re not sure what’s causing your rashes, take these steps:
- Don’t use any products that produce fragrances, dyes, or perfumes.
- If you encounter an irritant or allergen, such as plants or cleaning products, wear protective gear like long sleeves and pants. Goggles and gloves are also recommended when using certain substances.
- It’s important to use a barrier cream to moisturize and strengthen your skin’s outer layer.
- Before using any new product, test a small patch of skin for a time period necessary to tell if sensitivity occurs.
Until You See a Specialist In Home Treatment Methods
Depending on the severity of contact dermatitis, it may be effectively treated with at-home solutions. When you first experience a skin reaction, you can try these at-home solutions to ease discomfort:
- Refrain from scratching or touching the affected area, as doing so will worsen the reaction.
- Avoid the allergy-causing substance and thoroughly clean the skin with a gentle soap to remove all traces of the substance.
- Soothe the skin by applying a non-prescription anti-itch cream, ideally with a minimum of 1% hydrocortisone.
- For extreme itching, take an over-the-counter, oral, anti-itch medication, such as a corticosteroid or antihistamine.
- Soak the affected area in a lukewarm bath.
- Use a cold pack wrapped in a wet towel to relieve burning and discomfort temporarily.
Symptoms of contact dermatitis
Contact dermatitis symptoms vary greatly and can range from mild to severe enough to interfere with daily life. Here are some telltale signs of contact dermatitis:
- Itchy skin
- Reddening of the skin
- Patches of dry, scaly skin
- Hives (urticaria)
- Cracked skin
- Burning sensations
In severe cases, patients may experience swelling of the eyes, lips, and face. This can be a life-threatening reaction, so call 911 immediately if you experience swelling of the face or trouble breathing.
Contact dermatitis can be difficult to distinguish from other types of rashes. Proper diagnosis requires evaluation by a trained specialist. When you visit Kratz Allergy, you will meet Dr. Jaime Kratz, MD, and his team and Immunology Associates, who have been serving the needs of Trinity, New Port Richey, Port Richey, Hudson, Spring Hill, FL, and beyond for 23 years. You can rest assured that he and his team will get to the root of your symptoms and create an appropriate treatment plan.
If you’re struggling with unexplained rashes, it could be contact dermatitis.
Doctor-prescribed solutions may be needed for severe cases of contact dermatitis. Your doctor can prescribe a topical steroid cream or ointment to reduce skin rash. You may also receive a prescription for an oral corticosteroid medication to manage itching or antibiotics if the rash becomes a bacterial infection.
Contact dermatitis is an entirely manageable skin reaction that is not severe or contagious; if treated effectively, it can be treated within weeks. Contact us at 727-819-1610 Kratz Allergy & Asthma to schedule an appointment and learn about our full range of allergy and immunology services.