If you’ve ever broken out in a rash or blisters after touching something or rubbing something on your skin, you’ve experienced what dermatologists call contact dermatitis. While this skin condition isn’t life-threatening, it can be burdensome. Patients may feel embarrassed by the appearance of a contact dermatitis rash. And in some cases, these red, itchy rashes and blisters can escalate from irritating to painful.
But what causes this response in the first place, and why? And what can people do about their contact dermatitis? Here we’ll discuss possible triggers of this form of dermatitis, who is at the greatest risk, and how to prevent and treat these rashes.
Contact dermatitis can be triggered by two environmental factors: allergens and irritants.
The first trigger, allergens, can be any number of substances. A person’s genes determine whether they’re allergic to a given substance, so these triggers differ from person to person. Still, some allergens are more common than others, including:
When one’s skin touches an allergen, their body’s immune system goes into overdrive, often resulting in a rash. However, it may take a day or two for said rash to appear.
The other trigger of contact dermatitis, irritants, don’t result in an immune response. Rather, these substances lead to immediate, more painful rashes by physically damaging the skin’s surface layers. Those with eczema are more prone to irritant contact dermatitis because their skin is already extra sensitive, but irritants can damage anyone’s skin, especially if left on the skin for a long time. Common skin irritants include:
While anyone can experience contact dermatitis symptoms after touching certain substances, some people are more vulnerable than others. Those at the greatest risk for contact dermatitis are:
Generally speaking, most rashes and related symptoms from contact dermatitis go away on their own and won’t reappear unless one comes into contact with a given allergen or irritant again. However, more severe, stubborn cases can usually be effectively treated. The two main forms of contact dermatitis treatment are steroid creams and oral medications.
Topical steroid ointments help the skin heal faster and reduce itching. Oral medications include corticosteroids to decrease inflammation, antihistamines to relieve itching, and/or antibiotics to deter bacterial infections. These treatments might not be right for everyone, though, so it’s important to speak with your dermatologist and have them prescribe the best treatment regimen for you.
The saying goes that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Indeed, even the best contact dermatitis treatment doesn’t stack up to proper prevention efforts. Avoiding an outbreak isn’t always possible, but you can reduce your risk of a contact dermatitis rash by following some simple best practices, such as:
Your skin is there to protect you. Return the favor and protect your skin as well as you can. The professional dermatologists at Premier Dermatology Partners are happy to give you more advice and information on preventing and treating contact dermatitis and other skin conditions. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.