Contact Dermatitis Basics

Featured Article, Other Skin Conditions, Skin Center
on January 26, 2012
The basics of contact dermatitis.

If you have noticed unusual changes in your skin, you may be experiencing contact dermatitis. This very common condition is not life-threatening, but it is uncomfortable. Learn the contact dermatitis basics and gain back control of your well-being.

Contact dermatitis defined. This condition is an immune response to some irritant that touches your skin. The immune response is inflammation of the skin, reddening of the skin and an itchy rash.

Causes of contact dermatitis. Common items in your home, office or anywhere may be the catalyst for this unpleasant immune response. Typical offenders include but are not limited to:

  • Poison ivy
  • Poison oak
  • Fragrances
  • Jewelry
  • Soaps
  • Cosmetics

Treatment of symptoms. Contact dermatitis is usually very responsive to available treatment options. Your doctor will want to discuss the cause of the reaction.

Avoidance is the first line of treatment. According to the Mayo Clinic, the rash will clear, and symptoms dissipate within a two-week time period if the trigger is avoided. It is not always possible to completely eliminate and avoid all triggers of contact dermatitis. One of the contact dermatitis basics is to use the least invasive treatment option first.

Cool, wet compresses. Calm and soothe the rash with a clean cloth soaked in cool clean water. It is best if the cloth was not washed in a perfumed soap or fabric softener. Compresses can be purchased that are free of irritants and may be useful in soothing the skin and reducing inflammation. Do not use warm or hot water compresses, as it will further irritate the skin.

Anti-itch creams or ointments. These over-the-counter medications can be very effective in treating the symptoms of contact dermatitis. Ask your doctor if they are right for you before using any of them. The active ingredient in anti-itch medicine is usually a low dose of cortisone. Continual and repeated use of this medication is not recommended due to thinning of the skin and the body’s resistance to overuse of the medication. Additional anti-itch creams may include benzocaine, antihistamines and aloe vera.