Contact Dermatitis

Stop scratching and start soothing your red, itchy skin

Contact dermatitis is a rash that will not go away on its own. In most cases it is extremely itchy and red or pink in color.

Contact dermatitis is a reaction that your skin has to some external substance. The rash may not appear immediately after you are exposed. It may take hours or even days for the rash to show, and it may not always appear in the places that came in direct contact with the allergen or irritant.

Symptoms

The symptoms of contact dermatitis include:

  • Blistered skin
  • Crusted skin
  • Dry and scaly skin
  • Red or pink rash
  • Swelling
  • Thickened skin

Causes

Many substances, irritants and allergens can cause contact dermatitis.

Common household products that may cause a reaction include:

  • Cleaning products
  • Cologne or perfume
  • Detergent
  • Makeup
  • Shampoo
  • Soap

Irritation may also be caused by chemicals or metals in your workplace, and environmental products and foods you are exposed to frequently. In some cases you may develop sensitivity to something you have used for many years without a problem. One reason this may happen is because the manufacturer changed ingredients.

Contact dermatitis is not contagious. You cannot give your rash to someone else and you cannot get a contact dermatitis rash from another person.

Overview

Contact dermatitis is a reaction that your skin has to some external substance. The rash may not appear immediately after you are exposed. It may take hours or even days for the rash to show, and it may not always appear in the places that came in direct contact with the allergen or irritant.

Symptoms

The symptoms of contact dermatitis include:

  • Blistered skin
  • Crusted skin
  • Dry and scaly skin
  • Red or pink rash
  • Swelling
  • Thickened skin

Causes

Many substances, irritants and allergens can cause contact dermatitis.

Common household products that may cause a reaction include:

  • Cleaning products
  • Cologne or perfume
  • Detergent
  • Makeup
  • Shampoo
  • Soap

Irritation may also be caused by chemicals or metals in your workplace, and environmental products and foods you are exposed to frequently. In some cases you may develop sensitivity to something you have used for many years without a problem. One reason this may happen is because the manufacturer changed ingredients.

Contact dermatitis is not contagious. You cannot give your rash to someone else and you cannot get a contact dermatitis rash from another person.

The only way to prevent contact dermatitis is to avoid the substance that is causing the irritation. IU Health dermatologists can help you pinpoint possible causes of your rash, testing for as many as 400 common allergens and irritants.

Testing can be done using either a blood test or skin prick test, or both. Testing may not always indicate the cause of your rash, but the results can help eliminate many possible causes. In addition to testing, your medical and family history may offer some insight.

Diagnosis

The only way to prevent contact dermatitis is to avoid the substance that is causing the irritation. IU Health dermatologists can help you pinpoint possible causes of your rash, testing for as many as 400 common allergens and irritants.

Testing can be done using either a blood test or skin prick test, or both. Testing may not always indicate the cause of your rash, but the results can help eliminate many possible causes. In addition to testing, your medical and family history may offer some insight.

The key to successful long-term treatment for contact dermatitis is proper care of your skin and avoiding the particular causes of your condition. When contact dermatitis is unavoidable, treatment can help reduce symptoms.

Treatment may include:

Effective Skin Care

Safe cleansers and moisturizers from the Contact Allergen Replacement Database (CARD) can help you avoid using brands that contain your particular skin allergen.

Steroids

Steroids may be topical (applied to the surface of the skin), oral medicines or injections that temporarily reduce inflammation.

Treatment

The key to successful long-term treatment for contact dermatitis is proper care of your skin and avoiding the particular causes of your condition. When contact dermatitis is unavoidable, treatment can help reduce symptoms.

Treatment may include:

Effective Skin Care

Safe cleansers and moisturizers from the Contact Allergen Replacement Database (CARD) can help you avoid using brands that contain your particular skin allergen.

Steroids

Steroids may be topical (applied to the surface of the skin), oral medicines or injections that temporarily reduce inflammation.

Patient Stories for Contact Dermatitis

Household Products Database

This website by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services includes a large, easy-to-use database of products and their ingredients. Search for substances that you have identified as causing your contact dermatitis to learn which products contain those substances.

Medline Plus

This national government website features detailed information about contact dermatitis and available treatments.

Resources

Household Products Database

This website by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services includes a large, easy-to-use database of products and their ingredients. Search for substances that you have identified as causing your contact dermatitis to learn which products contain those substances.

Medline Plus

This national government website features detailed information about contact dermatitis and available treatments.