Have you ever tried a new perfume, dabbing a bit on your wrist, only to have a red, itchy rash develop afterward? Contact dermatitis is a skin inflammation, and it can develop when your skin contacts something that causes it irritation or an allergic reaction.
Two types. Contact dermatitis can be divided into two type types: irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. Irritant contact dermatitis is the most common type and is “the direct result of injury to the skin caused by chemical exposure,” states the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Allergic contact dermatitis, according to the Mayo Clinic, happens when something you are allergic to causes a reaction in your skin.
Symptoms of irritant contact dermatitis. Severity of symptoms will vary depending on the irritant and your skin’s sensitivity. While some people may only suffer a light rash after splashing cleaning solvent on their hand, your sensitive skin may redden with a scaly, itching rash. In addition to redness, other symptoms can appear, including bumps or blisters that may ooze and then scab over. Cracking, chapping and pain may also occur.
Symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis. According to the AAD, allergic contact dermatitis is “a type IV or delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction of the skin.” More than 3,000 environmental allergens are known to cause this type of contact dermatitis. The symptoms are similar to irritant contact dermatitis. A red, itchy skin rash may develop. Your skin also may develop small red bumps or become scaly. The rash may appear on the torso, hands, face or extremities, but location will vary depending on your body chemistry and the type of allergen. Poison ivy and allergic reactions to perfumes and dyes in clothing are some of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis.
When should I see a doctor? The Mayo Clinic suggests seeing your doctor when your attempts at self-care fail, when skin rash is painful or when you suspect your dermatitis is job-related. If a contact dermatitis rash is affecting your sleep patterns or ability to concentrate at work or school, contact your doctor. Always seek medical attention if you suspect your contact dermatitis has developed into a skin infection.