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What is Allergic Contact Dermatitis?

When the skin becomes sensitized after coming into contact with a certain substance, we call it allergic contact dermatitis. When a person has allergic contact dermatitis, their body will trigger an immune response that causes the skin to become red, irritated, and itchy. There are many different substances that may cause allergic contact dermatitis, including:

  • Antibiotics
  • Black henna (may be used for tattoos or in hair dye)
  • Nickel or other metals
  • Poison ivy and poison oak
  • Preservatives, such as sulfites
  • Rubber products, like latex
  • Sunscreens
  • Tattoo ink
  • Detergents and cleaning products
  • And more

When your skin comes in contact with an irritant, allergic contact dermatitis may appear right away or take 12 – 72 hours for symptoms to appear. Symptoms may include:

  • Blistering areas
  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Red skin
  • Skin that feels like it’s burning

Who is a Good Candidate for Allergic Contact Dermatitis Treatment?

If you have a rash that will not go away or have skin that is always irritated, or have any of the symptoms listed above, you can benefit from contact dermatitis treatment. Assessment by a dermatologist is required to properly diagnose allergic contact dermatitis for treatment. During your consultation, your dermatologist will speak with you regarding your symptoms and create a treatment plan to help you feel your best.

What to Expect During Allergic Contact Dermatitis Treatment?

Prior to treatment, patch testing may be recommended to identify our allergens. This test involves applying small amounts of potential allergens to your skin in the form of adhesive patches. These patches stay on your skin for 48 hours. Subsequently, your doctor will check for skin reactions under the patches.

Treatment for this condition may look different depending on the severity. They may include the following:

For mild allergic contact dermatitis reactions:

  • Antihistamine mediations
  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Soothing lotions and creams
  • Oatmeal baths

For severe reactions that cause swelling and rashes:

  • Oral corticosteroids like Prednisone
  • Wet dressings

Allergic Contact Dermatitis FAQs

Can contact dermatitis spread?

An allergic reaction that causes contact dermatitis often appears as if it is spreading, although this is often simply due to a delayed reaction to an area that was already exposed to the allergen.

Can dermatitis be caused by stress?

No, contact dermatitis is caused by an allergic reaction to substances or materials touching exposed areas of skin.

Can dermatitis be cured?

The symptoms of contact dermatitis can be effectively treated by a dermatologist, and long-term treatment includes avoiding the known allergen when possible.

Can dermatitis be painful?

Severe contact dermatitis can be painful, although most symptoms are itching, redness, and blisters.

How common is dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is a common condition, affecting over three million Americans each year.

Can contact dermatitis get worse?

Contact dermatitis often gets worse if not treated. It can easily spread and the rash can become severe.

How do you get rid of contact dermatitis?

To get rid of contact dermatitis, apply an anti-itch cream and/or take anti-itch medication and antihistamines. You can also apply a wet compress, soak in a cool oatmeal bath, wash your hands regularly, and avoid the allergen that caused your flare-up.

How do you get rid of vulvar dermatitis?

Topical steroid creams or ointments, moisturizers, antihistamines, and other oral or injectable medications can help you get rid of vulvar dermatitis.

How do you treat dermatitis in hair?

To treat dermatitis on your scalp, topical steroids or oral steroids can be used. Use hair and skin products that do not contain alcohol and avoid styling products for your hair. Wash your hair and skin regularly with gentle products free of common allergens.

Is eczema and dermatitis the same thing?

Although they are often used interchangeably, dermatitis is a broader definition for inflammation of the skin. Eczema also describes itchy skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and nummular eczema.

Following Allergic Contact Dermatitis Treatment

Following allergic contact dermatitis treatment, patients should experience fewer symptoms or less severe reactions to allergens. It is recommended, if possible, to avoid these allergens whenever possible. Your dermatologist can help you create a plan to avoid these agents for a more comfortable day-to-day life. If you do come into contact with an allergenic substance, wash the area with soap and lukewarm water as soon as possible.

Schedule a Consultation

To learn more about allergic contact dermatitis treatment, contact our office today to schedule your consultation with one of our dermatologists or physician assistants. Our team will be happy to answer any questions regarding treatment that you may have.

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