Dermatitis, Contact

General Illness Information

Common Name:

Medical Term: Non-specified

Description: Acute or chronic skin irritation caused by direct contact with an external substance (chemical or allergen) that causes an inflammatory reaction in the skin. It is a very common skin condition . Lesions are most often on exposed parts.

Causes: In about 80% of the cases, it is due to excessive exposure to soaps, detergents and organic solvents. Others are due to actual contact allergy such as poison ivy and poison oak.
The most common dermatological compounds causing allergic rashes include antibiotics such as neomycin, topical antihistamines, anesthetics (benzocaine), hair dyes, preservatives ( e. g. parabens) , latex and adhesive tape.

Occupational exposure is an important cause of contact allergic dermatitis. Contact dermatitis due to latex rubber in gloves and condoms is being seen more frequently.


  • The mainstay of prevention is identification and avoiding contact with any irritant which has caused dermatitis in the past. Wearing protective gloves may be helpful. especially when working with soaps, detergents and cleaning solvents;
  • In industry related cases, prevention may be accomplished by moving the worker to another part of the workplace with different responsibilities;
  • In case of exposure to poison ivy and poison oak, prompt and thorough removal of the allergen by prolonged washing or by dousing with solvents like isopropyl alcohol may be effective in preventing or minimizing the reaction.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Itching;
  • Slight redness;
  • Bright red, weeping areas (severe cases) with crusting;
  • Cracks and fissures in the skin;
  • Vesicular lesions in poison ivy and poison oak dermatitis;
  • Often a history of previous reaction to suspected contactant.

Risk Factors

  • Occupations or hobbies that bring you in contact with irritants;
  • Burns from hot water or sunburn;
  • Constant exposure to hot water, detergents, or any irritant that changes the moisture content of skin.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosis is usually made by history and physical findings.

General Measures:

  • Effective treatment involves eliminating allergens, avoiding irritants and other precipitating factors and relieving itching and inflammation;
  • Use bath oil or glycerin-based soap instead of soap for bathing;
  • Pat skin dry rather than rubbing it;
  • Reduce water temperature to lukewarm for bathing or other uses;
  • Use only cream, lotion or ointment prescribed for the condition. Other commercial products may aggravate the condition. Apply ointment or cream to hands 6 or 7 times a day. For other body parts, lubricate twice a day, especially after bathing;
  • Minimize the use of solvents, and wear heavy-duty, cotton-lined vinyl gloves to prevent contact with irritating substances such as water; soap; detergents , metal scouring pads, scouring powder; paint, paint thinner, turpentine, and polish for cars, floors, shoes, furniture or metal;
  • Dry the insides of gloves after use. Discard gloves if they develop a hole;
  • Wear gloves when you peel or squeeze lemons, oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes or potatoes;
  • Wear leather or heavy-duty fabric gloves for housework or gardening;
  • Use a dishwasher (if available) to wash dishes or ask someone else to do it;
  • Remove rings before doing housework or washing hands.


  • Topical creams, ointments or lotions may be recommended. These may include steroid preparations to reduce inflammation or lubricants to preserve moisture;
  • Acute severe cases may need to be treated with oral corticosteroids.


Resume your normal activities gradually as irritation subsides.

Diet: No special diet.

Possible Complications:

Secondary bacterial infection;
More generalized skin eruption.


Contact allergic dermatitis is self-limited if exposure is prevented but takes 2 to 3 weeks for full resolution.


Nothing Specified.

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