What is Contact Dermatitis?
The prefix “Derm” is skin while the suffix “itis” refers to an inflammation. Contact Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin. It is a rash or irritation localized in one area of the skin caused by contact with a foreign substance. “Foreign substances” include but are not limited to poisonous plants such as poison ivy, certain metals, cleaning liquids, detergents, cosmetics, perfumes, and foods.
Different Types of Contact Dermatitis
There are 2 variants of Contact Dermatitis – irritant and allergic.
1 – Irritant. This rash is caused by a substance that directly damages the skin. Chemicals such as household cleaners and solvents often trigger this type of rash. In many cases, severity of the rash depends on duration of exposure. The longer one is in contact with a product the more severe the rash.
2 – Allergic. An “allergic reaction” that most people are familiar with is the result of the immune system overreacting to a foreign substance inside the body, resulting in an itchy rash. Allergic Contact Dermatitis is an allergic reactions triggered by something external to the body. It is a result of something touching the skin in a particular area. The first exposure does not result in a rash; rather it sensitizes the skin for the next exposure.
Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis
It can be difficult to differentiate irritant from allergic Contact Dermatitis. The key difference is that allergic Contact Dermatitis affects the specific area in which it was exposed whereas irritant Contact Dermatitis can appear on several areas of the skin throughout the body.
In both irritant and allergic Contact Dermatitis a red rash appears. However, in irritant Contact Dermatitis the rash appears immediately and in allergic Contact Dermatitis it appears 1-2 days after exposure. In both cases the skin may blister and a raised red rash called hives may show up on the skin. The skin may itch or burn; irritant Contact Dermatitis, though, tends to be more painful than itchy. It often affects the hands which were exposed to the irritant via soaking or rinsing in a container in which the irritant was found. It can take up to 4 weeks for the reaction to completely resolve itself. If the rash is not getting better after a few days of self-care, contact us to make an appointment.