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Contact Dermatitis

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Contact dermatitis is inflammation of the skin that occurs when it comes in contact with allergens or irritants. The skin becomes red, sore and itchy.  We shall explain the details in the next paragraphs.

Causes of Contact Dermatitis

By allergens

Allergens cause skin infection by evoking an immune response, which gives rise to the uncomfortable skin condition. Histamines are released as a result of the immune reaction which causes the allergy. People develop contact dermatitis if they are sensitive to those allergens. Common allergens are:

  • Poison ivy, poison oak and other types of poisonous houseplants
  • Leather
  • Latex rubber
  • Perfumes used in soaps, lotions, shampoos, and other types of cosmetics
  • Citrus fruit peel
  • Hair dyes, nail polish
  • Neomycin
  • Certain fabrics
  • Nickel present more often in jewellery

By irritants

Irritants cause topical damage of skin and this type of dermatitis is more common. The intensity of the damage depends on the time of exposure and the strength of the irritants. Irritant contact dermatitis does not involve immune response. Common irritants are:

  • Soaps and detergents
  • Bleach
  • Fabric softeners
  • Chemical solvents
  • Cement

People who have history of asthma and eczema are more prone to contact dermatitis.

Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis

The allergy can develop immediately or it may show up after a month of getting exposed to the allergen. It can affect a specific part or can spread to larger portion of the body. The symptoms of the skin include:

  • Itching, mild or severe
  • Blisters
  • Fluid or pus drainage from the blisters
  • Red rashes and bumps
  • Swelling
  • Pain and tenderness
  • Skin feels warm
  • Dryness, cracks and roughness

When to see a doctor?

Check with your doctor if the allergy or the rashes do not go within 3-4 days and you begin experiencing discomfort which cannot be neglected.

Diagnosis of Contact Dermatitis

The dermatologist will conduct a physical exam on your skin. The signs and symptoms will be evaluated and you need to explain the probable allergen or irritant that might have caused the inflammation.

Following this a patch test will be conducted. In this test (also known as contact delayed hypersensitivity allergy test), a patch containing allergens will be pasted on a specific portion of the skin for a day or two. If allergic reaction gets triggered then you are allergic to that substance contained in the patch.

Do not dispose-off the patch for you will need to visit your doctor after 48 hours of treatment.

A skin lesion biopsy may also be conducted.

Treatment of Contact Dermatitis

The treatment is dependent on the underlying cause. Antihistamines and oral corticosteroids may be prescribed to combat a severe allergic reaction. Topical ointments and creams containing hydrocortisone may be given to eliminate rashes and bumps.

Other than treatment, home remedies work quite efficiently on contact dermatitis

Home Remedies for Contact Dermatitis

  • Do not expose your skin to warm water. Instead take cool compress on the rashes or take showers in moderately cold water
  • Do not scratch the skin and leave it dry. Ask your doctor for a medicated moisturizing lotion
  • Do not use perfumed soaps. You can wash your body gently with pure oatmeal until the allergy disappears
  • Protect yourself from the allergens or irritants that has been suspected to cause the inflammation
  • Wear very soft cotton fabric clothing

Contact dermatitis if taken care of properly doesn’t bring about any health complication. It takes approximately 2-3 weeks to get rid of the inflammation.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 17, 2015