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Effective Treatments for Relieving Contact Dermatitis

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 Triggers: Allergens and Irritants

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:

  • Rubber
  • Latex
  • Nickel
  • Poison ivy
  • Fruit peels
  • Hair dyes
  • Fragrances in cleaning and cosmetic products
  • Various topical medications
  • etc.

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:

  • Bleach
  • Detergents
  • Dust
  • Fertilizers and pesticides
  • Alcohol
  • Solvents
  • Plants
  • etc.

Who’s at Risk for Contact Dermatitis?

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:

  • People with eczema
  • People with weak or malfunctioning immune systems
  • People with several (and severe) allergies
  • People who work with irritants on a regular basis
    • Mechanics
    • Hairdressers
    • Construction workers
    • Healthcare workers
    • Agricultural workers
    • Food industry employees
    • Cleaners and janitors
    • Cosmetologists
    • Metalworkers
    • Divers, swimmers, and marine biologists

Effective Treatments for Relieving Contact Dermatitis

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.

Avoiding Contact Dermatitis

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:

  • Identifying and staying away from (or at least not touching directly) substances that irritate your skin or cause an allergic response
  • Wearing protecting clothing (gloves, mask, etc.) when tasked with getting near these potentially harmful substances
  • Cleaning your skin and clothes properly, especially after coming into contact with an irritant or allergen
  • Applying moisturizer once or twice a day to keep your skin hydrated, flexible, and protected
  • Wearing iron-on patches, which go over any metal clothing components (buttons, zippers, snaps, etc.) that touch your skin
  • Wearing barrier creams that add a layer of protection over your skin

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.

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