Contact Dermatitis Allergy

Overview of Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis occurs when your skin comes into direct contact with an allergen. The reaction can be a red, itchy rash. To treat the rash, you must avoid the allergen completely.

  • Contact dermatitis, more commonly called a rash, is when your skin gets red and tender after coming in contact with an allergen.
  • Common triggers are: poison ivy, hair dye, nickel, leather, latex, citrus fruit, fragrances, and medications.
  • Usually, only the rash occurs on the second instance of touching the item. Chances are you may not have realized it the first time that you came in contact.
  • Symptoms include: dry skin, hives, oozing blisters, skin redness, burning skin, itching, sun sensitivity, and swelling.

Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis

Symptoms occur in the location where the allergen came into contact. Symptoms may include a red rash, dry or cracked skin, bumps, blisters, swelling, oozing, burning, and itching. When symptoms become serious, you need to consult your allergist. Severe symptoms include loss of sleep, no relief within three weeks, signs of infection, or if your nasal passages are inflamed.

Causes of Contact Dermatitis

The cause of the reaction is typically because of rubbing alcohol, solvents, bleach, shampoos, plants or fertilizers. Irritant contact dermatitis is the most common allergic reaction and occurs when the irritant damages the skin. Some people will have a reaction after one exposure, but sometimes they happen after repeated exposure. In allergic contact dermatitis, the reaction can be triggered by anything that enters the body.

Risk Factors

Certain jobs will increase your risk of an allergic reaction. For example, if you are a cosmetologist, health care worker, mechanic, or cleaner, you are likely to be in contact with many irritants. These conditions will put you at a higher risk for an allergic reaction.

Complications of Contact Dermatitis

The main complication for contact dermatitis is when the spot becomes infected. If you have a reaction, it is essential that you do not scratch the spot. When the spot becomes wet and oozes, the bacteria will grow and cause an infection.

Prevention of Contact Dermatitis

The best prevention of the allergen is to avoid the allergen completely. Identify what the substance is causes the reaction and avoid it. If you come in contact with the substance, you should wash your skin so that the substance is off of your skin. If your clothing or other items have also come into contact with the allergen, wash those as well. If you are allergic to the metal in buttons, you can apply a patch to cover it. If you work around plants that you are allergic to, such as poison ivy, you may want to apply a barrier gel. Wear protective clothing when you are in an environment where a reaction may occur.

Treatment of Contact Dermatitis

To begin treatment, avoid the allergen, if possible. Then you can apply an anti-itch cream to the area, or take an anti-itch drug. You will want to avoid scratching the affected area as to avoid an infection. A cool, wet compress or cool bath may help ease symptoms too. If home remedies do not help, consult your allergist. The allergist will be able to help by prescribing an oral medication or a steroid cream.

Contact Dermatitis Allergy FAQ

How do you treat allergic contact dermatitis?

The best way to treat allergic contact dermatitis is to remove the allergen. Your allergist may also recommend a cream or medication to stop the itching.

What is the most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis?

The most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis is nickel.


What triggers contact dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is caused by any substance that you’re exposed to and causes an allergic reaction.


Is allergic contact dermatitis immediate?

Allergic contact dermatitis is usually not immediate. It is most commonly seen about one to three days after contact with the allergen.