Contact Dermatitis Treatment

Rashes can occur almost anywhere on the skin for a vast number of different reasons. Among the most common skin conditions, contact dermatitis is not contagious or life-threatening, but it can be very uncomfortable. In some cases, this condition may require treatment from a dermatologist in Gainesville to adequately relieve symptoms. Gainesville Dermatology & Skin Surgery offers comprehensive, clinical treatments for various skin conditions, including contact dermatitis.

Contact our dermatologists to schedule an appointment and to learn about our available treatments.

What Is Contact Dermatitis?

Dermatitis is a medical term for skin inflammation or irritation. Contact dermatitis is an allergic or irritant reaction that produces painful or itchy skin rashes. As the name of this condition suggests, you can develop contact dermatitis after coming into contact with an allergen (allergic contact dermatitis), such as poison ivy, or an irritant (irritant contact dermatitis), such as a chemical solvent. While irritant contact dermatitis can occur after a single exposure or multiple exposures to the irritant over time, allergic contact dermatitis requires multiple exposures to the substance to develop an allergy. Therefore, patients in certain professions, such as construction workers, florists, food workers, hair stylists, healthcare professionals, artists, janitors, plumbers, and mechanics, can have a higher risk of developing contact dermatitis than others.

Contact Dermatitis Symptoms

The first sign of contact dermatitis is itchy, uncomfortable, red skin, followed by a rash. You may likewise develop blisters in the affected area. Fortunately, contact dermatitis is not contagious, so you cannot pass it on to others. So many different substances can irritate the skin or cause an allergic skin reaction, making contact dermatitis a top reason why patients request appointments with their dermatologists. In most cases, contact dermatitis symptoms depend on the cause and your sensitivity to the substance.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Symptoms commonly produced with allergic contact dermatitis include the following.

  • Skin Redness
  • Darkened or Leather Skin
  • Dry, Scaly & Flaky Skin
  • Hives
  • Oozing Blisters
  • Burning
  • Extreme Itchiness
  • Sensitivity To Sunlight
  • Swelling

Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Symptoms commonly associated with irritant contact dermatitis include the following.

  • Blistering Skin
  • Cracked Skin
  • Extreme Dryness
  • Swelling
  • Tight Or Stiff Skin
  • Open Sores With Crusts
  • Ulcerations

Contact Dermatitis Causes

There are two common types of dermatitis (allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis) and one less common type (photocontact dermatitis. Photocontact dermatitis is a skin reaction when an active ingredient in a skin care product is exposed to the sun, resulting in skin irritation. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when the skin develops an allergic reaction after exposure to a foreign substance. This contact causes the body to release inflammatory chemicals that make skin feel itchy, inflamed, and irritated. Common causes of allergic contact dermatitis include poison oak or poison ivy plants, items made from latex, perfumes, formaldehyde, Balsam of Peru, certain medications like antibiotics creams, cosmetics and skin care products, or jewelry made with nickel or gold, among other allergens.

Irritant contact dermatitis is the most common type of contact dermatitis. This condition occurs when the skin comes into contact with a toxic substance. Toxic substances that may cause irritant contact dermatitis include bleach, drain cleaners, rubbing alcohol, certain airborne substances, fertilizers, pesticides, kerosene, detergents, pepper spray, and battery acid, among other toxic substances. Irritant contact dermatitis can likewise occur with overexposure to less irritating substances, such as soap or water. Patients working in hairstyling, bar keeping, and healthcare, for example, who frequently expose their hands to water often develop irritant contact dermatitis of the hands.

Contact Dermatitis Treatment

Your dermatologist will likely diagnose contact dermatitis and identify its cause by discussing your signs, symptoms, and possible trigger substances, and examining your skin for any patterns and the severity of the rash. Your dermatologists can perform a patch test to determine whether or not you are allergic to a substance. Patch tests can be especially useful if the cause of your rash is not apparent or if your rash recurs regularly. During a patch test, tiny amounts of potential allergens and irritants are applied to adhesive patches that are then applied to your skin. The patches usually remain on the skin for several days, after which your dermatologist checks for skin reactions under the patches and then determines whether or not further testing is necessary.

In most cases, contact dermatitis goes away on its own once the allergen or irritant substance is no longer present or in contact with the skin. For care at home, avoid scratching your irritated skin; clean it with mild soap and water to remove any irritants or allergens; stop using products you suspect may cause the issue; apply anti-itch medications, such as calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to the affected area; and (if needed), take an antihistamine drug, such as diphenhydramine, to reduce itching as well as your allergic response. Seek medical attention if your rash is near your eyes, mouth, or genitals; if the rash covers a large portion of your body; or if the rash does not improve with at-home treatment. If home remedies don't ease your symptoms, your dermatologist may prescribe a topical steroid cream or (in severe cases) oral medications, such as prescription oral corticosteroids.

How Long Does Contact Dermatitis Last?

Contact dermatitis usually occurs on parts of the body that come into direct contact with the reaction-causing substance. For example, contact dermatitis is likely to occur on a limb that brushed poison ivy or pierced ears with earrings made with nickel. From the point of contact, the rash usually develops within minutes to hours of exposure and can last anywhere from 2–4 weeks in duration. Chronic exposure to a mild irritant, such as water or soap, causes a reaction over prolonged periods of weeks to months, and symptoms typically occur on the hands. Allergic contact dermatitis may be limited to the site of original contact, but in more cases than not, it spreads beyond the site of contact.

How Can I Prevent Contact Dermatitis?

Avoiding initial exposure to irritants and allergens can help prevent symptoms associated with all types of contact dermatitis. Our dermatology associates recommend considering the following tips.

  • Try to identify and avoid irritants and allergens.
  • Wash your skin after coming in contact with any irritant or allergen.
  • Apply and reapply sun protection daily.
  • Wear protective clothing or gloves.
  • Cover metal fasteners on clothing with iron-on patches.
  • Apply a barrier cream or gel to your skin.
  • Use natural moisturizers.
  • Take care around pets.
  • Purchase dermatologist-recommended skin care.
  • Stick with "hypoallergenic" and "unscented" topical products.
  • Opt for wearing vinyl gloves instead of latex gloves.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants while outdoors.
  • If a product causes irritation, stop using it immediately.
  • Always do spot tests of any new products on your forearm.