What Is Contact Dermatitis?

Health, Home & Family
on May 26, 2012

It’s uncomfortable and annoying. Contact dermatitis can really get you down with its red skin rash, bumpy itchy skin and irritating dry patches. Find out what contact dermatitis is, how it is caused and what you can do about it.

What is contact dermatitis? The good news is, contact dermatitis is not life-threatening or dangerous. This condition of the skin is a type of inflammation. It appears on the skin as an itchy rash. While contact dermatitis can be uncomfortable, the Mayo Clinic assures that contact dermatitis is not catchy and can be treated.

What causes contact dermatitis? The condition of contact dermatitis can be caused by a variety of factors. There are two types of contact dermatitis. The cause of the reaction depends upon the category that the reaction falls into — irritant or allergic.

Irritant contact dermatitis. This is the most typical form of contact dermatitis. It is a skin reaction when a substance comes into contact with your skin and damages the outer and protective layer of skin. The reaction can occur upon initial contact with the substance or over-repeated exposure. Typical irritants include:

  • Harsh soaps
  • Cosmetics
  • Skin products
  • Deodorant
  • Chemical cleaning products

Allergic contact dermatitis. This type of contact dermatitis is triggered by your immune system. When your skin comes into contact with a product that you are sensitive or allergic to, the reaction is a contact dermatitis rash and even blisters, when severe. Typical allergens are:

  • Rubber
  • Costume jewelry
  • Perfume
  • Cosmetics
  • Plants like poison ivy
  • Dyes
  • Certain metals
  • Cashew nuts
  • Medications like topical antibiotic creams

Cures for contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis can be treated more than cured. The irritant or allergen may continue to cause contact dermatitis even after treatment. The best way to eliminate the contact dermatitis rash is to stay away from the irritant or allergen in question. After a few weeks of avoidance, the skin should return to its normal state. Medications can also help treat contact dermatitis. Anti-itch creams with mild levels of cortisone are available over the counter and are very effective. A doctor can provide you with a stronger cream if necessary. Oral medications are another option if the rash is not cleared up with less intrusive methods — corticosteroids and antihistamines, typically.