Contact Dermatitis

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Contact Dermatitis is one of the prevailing occupational skin diseases in Industrialized societies. It comes in different types; allergic, irritant, and photo. Dermatitis can be quite uncomfortable, but it is treatable.

Contact Dermatitis has a lifetime of between 1- 10 percent in industrialized communities and the common cause of occupational skin diseases. Allergic contact dermatitis is approximated to cause about 20 percent of the skin disease in Europe.

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Contact Dermatitis

Contact Dermatitis can be the red itchy rash reaction the skins give whenever it comes in contact with substances that irritates it. Such substances could be your skincare product, bathing soaps, detergents, cosmetics, fragrance, jewelry, plants. It could also be an allergic reaction. 

Types of Contact Dermatitis

a) Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Irritant contact dermatitis is the most common non-allergic contact dermatitis. It happens when a substance damages the skin’s outer protective layer. Such substances may include shampoo, detergent, bleach, fertilizers, plants, solvents, etc. Most times, direct contact is needed for irritant contact dermatitis to occur. They are different type of irritant contact dermatitis

Acute Irritant Contact Dermatitis: This occurs when exposures to irritants such as a strong acid or alkali

Delayed Acute Irritant Contact Dermatitis: This is when the reaction is delayed for approximately 8-24 hours after exposure.

Irritant Reaction: This happens when occupations such as hairdressing exposes one to wet jobs leaves scaling, redness of the skin at the back of their hands with repeated exposure

Sensorial Irritant: This creates sensory responses like stinging, burning, etc, or itchy sensation.

Cumulative Irritant Contact Dermatitis: Most common type of irritant contact dermatitis that is induced by weak irritants. It is characterized by redness and dryness accompanied by thickening of the skin

Traumatic Irritant Contact Dermatitis: This happens after acute exposure to a chemical burn. It can be stubbornly reluctant to therapy 

Frictional Dermatitis: This occurs due to peeling forces acting horizontally to the surface. It is most common on the hand.

b) Allergic Contact Dermatitis

  • Allergic contact dermatitis happens when the skin reacts to a substance to a substance your body is sensitive to called an allergen, which causes an immune reaction that makes the skin feel itchy and irritated.
  • Such allergens may include nickel, gold, perfumes, cosmetics, skincare products, etc.

c) Photo Contact Dermatitis

As the name suggests, it occurs when the skin is exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun, resulting in itching and irritations.

When Should You See The Doctor?

You should see the doctor immediately when:

  • When the rash is sudden and widespread and does not get better within a month
  • Rashes on your genital and face
  • Presence of fever and pus 
  • Pains in your lungs, eye, or nasal passages  from inhaling an allergen.

How Can Contact Dermatitis Be Diagnosed?

Usually, the itch and the redness go on its own with time but if it doesn’t improve on its own, then there is a need to consult your doctor.

During Examination:

During the examination, the doctor tries to:

  • Recognize the existence of an occupational exposure
  • Assessing whether that exposure could be the cause.

 This could be achieved through:

  • Undergoing Patch skin test, that is, exposing a part of your skin to an allergen to ascertain the causative allergen
  • You might be asked certain questions like when you started experiencing the symptoms, what makes it better or worse, your cosmetic product, chemicals you come in contact with daily, etc.

Risks Factors of Contact Dermatitis

  • Continues exposure to chemicals
  • Occupations such as metal workers, gardeners, auto mechanics, hairdressers, etc
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Age 

Treatment of Contact Dermatitis

Contact Dermatitis can go on its own without much medical intervention but if after a month it does not heal, then it is advisable to see your doctor. The doctor may prescribe some medications such as

  • Steroid creams and ointment oil
  • Oral medication such as corticosteroids

They are also self-care approaches that can help, which involves

  • Identifying and avoiding the allergen that irritates your skin
  • Wash your skin and clothes regularly with mild, fragrance-free soap and warm water
  • Try using moisturizers regularly as it helps restore your skin’s outermost layer
  • Try doing a spot test with any new cosmetic product or body care product. A spot test involves applying a little quantity of the product to a spot on your forearm, cover the area, and don’t expose it to water or soap for 48 -96 hours. Then check for any redness or irritation.
  • Try wearing long sleeves shirts and pants when hiking
  • Avoid scratching your irritated skin to avoid spreading infection on that area 

Recovery Rate

Contact dermatitis has proven to have a good recovery rate when the irritants have been identified and avoided. In severe cases,  strict adhering to prescription by the doctor has been quite helpful.


The symptoms of contact dermatitis include:

  • A red rash that could last two-four weeks
  • Dry, cracked flaky skin
  • Mild to severe itching
  • Blisters that may ooze
  • Skin burns


Contact Dermatitis can occur when exposed to allergens such as:

  • Perfumes
  • Preservatives such as formaldehyde
  • Medications eg Oral histamines
  • Jewelry made from Nickel
  • Jewelry made from gold
  • Detergents and bleach
  • Cosmetics
  • Plants like poison ivy and mango
  • Airborne substances like ragweed pollen, pesticides, etc
  • There could also be internal factors such as altered barrier skin function, existing dermatitis.



1. How long does Contact Dermatitis last?

This is dependent on the area of the body affected, the type of contact dermatitis involved, and how severe it is. It could take two-four weeks.

2. How do I cure  Contact Dermatitis fast?

  • You could try avoiding allergens that affect you, 
  • Avoid scratching the affected area
  • Use a clean damp cloth to clean the surface of the rash
  • Apply moisturizers
  • Lukewarm baths can also help

3. How does contact dermatitis get worse?

Contact dermatitis get worse due to continuous exposure of the infected areas to the causative allergens or other allergens, which makes it more severe

4. Is it contagious?

Contact dermatitis is caused by irritants and not bacterias, although infections may arise due to continuous scratching of infected areas.

5. Does Contact Dermatitis get worse at night?

Yes, it could get worse at night as, during the night, the body has decreased in temperature, which can make the skin feel itchy.