Contact dermatitis is an eczema-like skin reaction that is produced by exposure to an irritating substance such as detergents, soaps, certain plants, and solvents. Contact dermatitis is not contagious.
Signs and symptoms
Contact dermatitis is diagnosed according to a pattern of symptoms. Your doctor will take a complete medical history and ask you questions about the types of substances you have regular contact with or had contact with right before the symptoms appeared. If your doctor suspects allergic contact dermatitis, but it is difficult to identify the allergen, he or she may perform a patch test. The doctor will place a small patch on your skin for a period of two days. The patch contains some common allergens that cause contact dermatitis. After the patch is removed, the doctor will check for a reaction over the next few days.
Initial treatment includes thorough washing with lots of water to remove any trace of the irritant that may remain on the skin. Further exposure to known irritants or allergens should be avoided.
In some cases, the best treatment is to do nothing to the area.
Topical corticosteroid medications may reduce inflammation. Carefully adhere to instructions when using topical steroids because overuse of these medications, even low-strength over-the-counter topical steroids, may cause a troublesome skin condition. In severe cases, systemic corticosteroids may be needed to reduce inflammation. These are usually tapered gradually over about 12 days to prevent recurrence of the rash.
MedicationYour doctor may prescribe topical creams, ointments or lotions. These may include corticosteroid preparations to reduce inflammation or lubricants to preserve moisture.
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