Elizabeth Otero, M.D.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin that happens when it is touched by an irritating substance. The rash is usually just in the area of skin that touched the substance.

Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin touches a substance that irritates the skin or causes an allergic reaction. Common causes of contact dermatitis from irritants are soaps, detergents, solvents, waxes, polishes, and hand cleaners. Common causes from allergic reactions are hair dyes, jewelry, fingernail polish, and deodorants. Some of the other substances that might cause contact dermatitis are rubber, poison ivy, and nickel. (Nickel is often in inexpensive jewelry, belt buckles and watches.)

The symptoms of contact dermatitis include:

► itching
► swelling
► redness of the skin
► scaling of the skin
► blisters that may break open and ooze, crust, or scale, possibly causing an infection.

Dr. Otero or Kristin will ask about possible irritants that may have touched your skin recently. She will look at the entire rash, noting where it is and how it looks in each area (for example, whether it is on one or both hands).

Avoid further contact with the substance that appears to cause the dermatitis.

Ask Dr. Otero or Kristin about a Patch Test (specific allergy testing) to determine potential triggers you may need to avoid.

If you know the substance that caused the dermatitis, make sure that the substance is not one of the ingredients in the cosmetic, cleaning, or other products that you use. If you are accidentally exposed to the substance, wash the exposed area right away. Wash thoroughly but gently to try to remove as much of the substance as possible without further irritating the skin.