Contact Dermatitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

You might term it like a rash, but you doctor terms it as dermatitis. In any of the ways, skin results in getting red and soft post touching anything. This could be a result of either an allergy or there is damage to the protective layer of the skin.

I guess there would have been various times when a product for skincare would have been used, which would result in skin getting red or would cause skin irritation. This means that you are facing an issue that is termed as contact dermatitis.

This condition is a result of chemicals coming in touch/contact with the skin resulting in an adverse reaction/ end-result.

What is contact dermatitis?

Dermatitis is defined as “inflammation of the skin.” The term dermatitis and eczema are the same. As mentioned above contact dermatitis is a term that is a result of inflammation which is a cause when the skin comes in direct contact/touch with a particular thing in the environment that causes irritation or an allergic reaction. There are several chemical i.e. natural or artificial which could activate contact dermatitis. It is also sometimes referred to as contact eczema.

Contact dermatitis could be easily prevented or treated if the material/substance is recognized and kept away. There is various treatment that would help relieve/ alleviate the symptoms.

Triggers for allergic reactions

There is an involvement of the immune system if the trigger is a result of an allergy. The immune system thinks that the body is in danger if you touch something of which you are allergic to. It turns itself into an action mode by producing antibodies for fighting against the attackers. Due to a series of episodes/incidents occurring, a chemical named histamine is produced. This is known as a reaction caused by allergies. In this situation, the allergic reaction caused is itchy rashes. This is termed as allergic contact dermatitis.

Few of the triggers that result in contact dermatitis are

  • Poison ivy (the climbing plant from North America, its leaves produces oil that is irritating and results in dermatitis), poison oak.
  • Hair dyes or straighteners
  • Metal i.e. Nickel found in jewelry and buckles of the belt
  • Leather i.e. majorly chemicals that are made use of in tanning leather
  • Latex rubber
  • Peel of the citrus fruits
  • The smell of soaps, shampoos, lotions, perfumes, and cosmetics
  • Medicines used to apply on the skin

Different types of Contact Dermatitis

There are three kinds of contact dermatitis such as:
  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis
  • Irritant Contact Dermatitis
  • Photo contact Dermatitis

Irritant Contact Dermatitis: This occurs as a result of touch between the skin and chemical that is an irritant. This causes “friction or makes contact with heat.” Substances that are toxic and could cause irritation are battery acid, bleach, drain cleaners, detergents, pepper spray, kerosene. Substances present in air such as sawdust or wool dust, plants, pesticides and fertilizers, shampoos. This could also be caused, when skin comes in touch with a substance that is not much irritating such as soap or even water. If an individual is exposed to a particular substance too frequently it results in a reaction. Individuals who too often wash their hands using soap, form an irritation to the soap they are using.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis: This involves the immune system. After an instant exposure to an allergen, there is an occurrence of allergic contact dermatitis which is not so common. This is known as Contact Urticaria i.e. hives.

Causes for Allergic contact dermatitis could be nickel or gold plated jewelry, latex gloves, perfumes, chemicals present in products used for skincare or cosmetics, poison oak or poison ivy.

Occupational Dermatitis: This happens in some professions in which the workers are constantly exposed to various “irritants or allergens such as rubber, latex or chemicals.” This includes professions like hairdressers, workers in the healthcare field or food servers.

Photo contact Dermatitis: This is a very rare kind of dermatitis. This occurs as a result of an individual coming in touch with an “irritant or allergen” (could be skin products), and that particular part of contact gets exposed to the sun that results in a reaction.

The activation of this type could be due to cream used for shaving, ointment for skin, certain oils, few of the medicines.

Any of these types would cause skin itching or burning rashes that occur instantly or after certain days. Treatment for rashes is important and also identifying the cause of triggers to prevent contact dermatitis in the future.

Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis

There would development of rash when exposed to an allergen or irritant in almost all cases of contact dermatitis. In major of the situations, there is redness, itching sensations. If there is constant exposure to the irritant or allergen, it would result in skin getting “dark and leathery.”

Few kinds of contact dermatitis show the below-mentioned symptoms:

  • Blisters
  • Skin getting dry, cracked and flaky (cracking or peeling)
  • Rashes
  • Skin gets red
  • Burning sensations
  • Painful and itchy sensations
  • Swelling

To understand the various kinds of contact dermatitis, it is important to concentrate when the start of symptoms occurs.

If the occurrence of the contact dermatitis id due to a reaction caused by an irritant, instantly symptoms occur. In few cases, ulcers also occur, which helps them know the irritant that triggers the same.

For photo contact dermatitis, rashes are seen only if the individual exposes itself to sunlight.

Note: Contact Dermatitis is not contagious and does not spread from one individual to another.

Is contact dermatitis hereditary?

Individuals who have a “tendency” to asthma, eczema, and hay fever begin to get irritant contact dermatitis too often than those who do not suffer from these situations. The possibility is that it does run in the family.

How is the appearance of contact dermatitis?

The most usual place where contact dermatitis occurs is hand followed by arms, neck, and face. Once it gets in touch with the irritant or allergenic thing, it results in redness, dryness and cracks/peeling of the skin. At some points of time, even “blistering” and “weeping” occurs. Blisters meaning “a part of the skin that is covered by a raised, fluid-filled bubble.”

Risk Factors

Many of the professions and hobbies we indulge in result in increased risk for contact dermatitis. The examples are as follows:

  • Employees dealing with health and dentist
  • Individuals working with metals
  • Workers in the construction line
  • Cosmetologists and hair-dressers
  • Individuals dealing with auto mechanics
  • There is the presence of rubber in face masks or goggles, so it affects scuba divers or swimmers
  • Individuals dealing with cleaning i.e. cleaners
  • Workers dealing with gardening or agriculture
  • Individuals dealing with food or cooks

Complications for contact dermatitis

If your area that is affected is constantly scratched, it could result in infections. This would also result in the affected area to become wet and oozing (exudation/ discharge of the fluid). This would result in infections as there is the growth of bacteria or fungi.

Diagnosis for contact dermatitis

Important to inform the physician if symptoms are extremely acute or if there is no progress with time.

There would be a history taken related to your medical conditions and there would also be an examination of your skin. Doctors might ask you certain questions such as

  • When was the symptom noticed for the first time?
  • How do you know the symptoms are good or bad?
  • Before the start of the rash, did you visit any hiking place?
  • Every day what products are used for your skin?
  • Regularly, what chemicals are you exposed to?
  • What are you presently doing for your living?

Your physician might send you to a dermatologist or an allergy expert for further checking and identifying the reason behind contact dermatitis. The expert would carry out a test for allergy, which is termed as the patch test. This includes exposure of a tiny part of your skin to an allergen.

The allergy expert can identify the reason behind the occurrence of contact dermatitis.

Treatment for contact dermatitis

  • Once the product is no more in touch with the skin, this condition goes away on its own. Few guidelines that could be taken care at home includes:
  • Do not scratch the skin that is already irritated. It could make the irritation part pathetic or could even result in infection of the skin and needs antibiotics for treatment.
  • Important to use a mild form of soap and water that is lukewarm for the removal of the irritants.
  • Avoid usage of any substances of “products” that you think is affecting your skin.
  • For the smoothness of the skin, apply petroleum jelly or Vaseline.
  • If itching occurs, use anti-itching medicines or lotions.
  • Also to avoid any kind of itching or to decrease the allergic response important to consume antihistamine drugs.
  • Other things would be to find out the main reason behind the occurrence of contact dermatitis and eliminating the chemical or any allergen to get in touch with the skin. It is also difficult to completely avoid anything. It is important to take careful measures for the protection of the skin by wearing gloves, applying creams to improve the barrier of the skin, trying to restrict excess exposure to soaps and detergents.
  • The duration for the contact dermatitis to subside would take few months. To decrease the issue of inflammation, one can apply creams or moisturizers as advised by the physicians. The creams to be applies come in different strengths, so necessary to use correct strength for the correct duration of time. For all the guidelines and advice, do consult a professional for proper guidance and treatment.
  • Individuals who have a too acute condition might need to start with oral (mouth) medicines.

Ways to prevent contact dermatitis

Try to follow the below-mentioned guidelines:

  • Try to go for those products which have words like” hypoallergenic” or “unscented.”
  • If there is an allergy with latex, avoid wearing gloves made of them, instead, go for vinyl gloves.
  • Important to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, while “hiking in the wilderness.”
  • Avoid using any new products, through which irritation occurs.
  • Apply a cream or gel which acts as a barrier for the skin. These could act as a layer of protection for the skin.
  • Use moisturizer. If applying the moisturizer daily, it would help to get back the outer layer of the skin and keeps the skin flexible and smooth.
  • Take care around the pets. There are certain allergens got from the plant, like poison ivy, which can stick/ attach to pets that can be transferred to people.
  • Could “apply an iron-on-patch to cover the metal fasteners which is next to your skin.” For example, this will eliminate the chances of reaction with jean snaps.
  • Washing the skin. After coming in touch with the substance that has resulted in rashes, washing the area/ part correctly would eliminate most of the “rash-causing substance.” Important to make use of soap that is mild and fragrance-free and warm water. Important to also rinse properly. Also important to clean all those clothes or other things that would have come in touch with an allergen or irritant.

If an individual feels they have a skin that is sensitive, with any new product go for a spot test. Like you could apply a product that is new to anyone area, for example, one area on your forearm. Do not expose the part to soap or water. Within 48-96 hours, do keep a check for any kind of reaction. If the product has caused any kind of “redness” or “irritation”, restrict the usage of the new product.

Lifestyle and home remedies

  • Protect yourself from any kind of irritant or allergen: To identify the cause and eliminate it or stay away from it. For example, if an individual is allergic to any metal try to avoid wearing it or add a barrier to avoid any rashes or harm. The solution could be to line the interiors of the bracelet with “a piece of clear tape” or applying clear nail polish.
  • To the affected area applying lotions or creams that are anti-itching.
  • Consume an oral drug that is an anti-itching.
  • Appliance of cool and wet compresses.
  • Do not indulge in scratching the affected areas constantly or frequently.
  • Soak in a comfortable bath that is cool: water containing baking soda or an oat-meal related bath product could be used for sprinkling.
  • Protect the hands. Wash, clean and dry the hand thoroughly. Important to apply moisturizer every-day. Could cover the hands with gloves that are suitable for your condition. If your hands are always wet, an individual could use gloves made of plastic lined with cotton.



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