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.

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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.

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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.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Contact dermatitis is caused by a foreign substance or object that comes in contact with your skin. The exact remedy will vary depending on the substance or object, the area that was affected, and the patient’s skin type, among other factors.

This skin condition looks like a red rash that may, in some instances, have a rough texture. It can appear in most parts of the body and even though it is not contagious, it can produce mild to moderate discomfort for patients.

The very first sign of contact dermatitis is an itchy, numb, or uncomfortable sensation in the area that has been exposed to the source. This may be a specific chemical, material, or other variants that cause skin irritation, which may need professional attention depending on its severity.

Unlike eczema and other dermatitis symptoms, contact dermatitis cannot be caused by stress. This condition is only caused by external elements that come in contact with your skin, producing an unwanted reaction.

If the rash appears very suddenly, is extremely uncomfortable, or causes distractions from your daily activities, you should see a skincare expert that can identify the potential source and offer a solution to soothe the discomfort.