Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction that can occur when the skin comes in contact with an allergen. It appears as a red, itchy, sometimes scaly rash and can manifest several hours up to several days after contact with the offending material. Contact dermatitis isn’t life threatening, but repeated scratching of itchy, affected skin can lead to an infection. Treatment can ease discomfort and symptoms of contact dermatitis.

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Symptoms of contact dermatitis include:

  • Red rash
  • Scaly, dry, cracked skin patches
  • Itching, which may be severe
  • Swelling or tenderness
  • Bumps and blisters


Contact dermatitis is caused by contact with certain materials, which can vary from individual to individual. Common causes include plants, soaps, cleansers, detergents, fragrances, cosmetics, jewelry, rubber, nickel, solvents, bleach, and other chemicals or drugs.

Prevention and Treatment

You may be able to prevent contact dermatitis from occurring using the following prevention steps:

  • Avoid known allergens and irritants
  • Wash with mild, fragrance-free soaps immediately after coming in contact with an allergen
  • Wear protective clothing, gloves, and/or face mask while using chemicals, harsh cleansers, and similar products
  • Use moisturizing creams or lotions to protect your skin

Home and medical treatments for contact dermatitis include:

  • Steroid ointment or cream, applied directly to the rash
  • Oral medications, such as corticosteroids, antihistamines, or antibiotics
  • Anti-itch creams or drugs
  • Cool, wet compress

Contact dermatitis is a temporary condition and should subside within three weeks after contact with the irritant.