DEFINITION--Skin inflammation caused by contact with an irritating substance.
Contact dermatitis is not contagious.
BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Skin, especially of the hands, feet and groin.
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--All ages, but most common in women.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
- Itching, pain or discomfort (sometimes).
- Slight redness.
- Cracks and fissures in the skin.
- Bright red, weeping areas (severe cases).
Contact with irritants, such as sprays, acids or solvents. The irritant removes the
fatty layer of skin. This causes dehydration and shrinking of surface cells. Some
irritants can cause a reaction in moments, while others may take hours or days. Irritants
- Some metals in jewelry.
- Certain topical medications.
- Chemicals in some cosmetics.
- Chemicals, soaps, detergents, bleaches, metal cleaners, paint removers, gasoline and
RISK INCREASES WITH
- Constant exposure to hot water, detergents, or any irritant that changes the moisture
content of skin.
- Burns from hot water or sunburn.
- Occupations or hobbies that bring you in contact with irritants.
HOW TO PREVENT
- Avoid contact with any irritant that has caused dermatitis in the past.
- Wear protective gloves and other clothing for protection from irritants.
What To Expect
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
- Doctor's treatment with medication.
- Secondary bacterial infection.
- More generalized skin eruption.
PROBABLE OUTCOME--Symptoms can be controlled with treatment and avoidance of the
irritant. Recurrence is common, so treatment may be necessary for years.
How To Treat
Avoid the chemical or material causing the skin eruption. 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; detergent; 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.
MEDICATION--Your doctor may prescribe topical creams, ointments or lotions.
These may include steroid preparations to reduce inflammation or lubricants to preserve
ACTIVITY--Resume your normal activities gradually as irritation subsides.
DIET--No special diet.
Call Your Doctor If
> Severe pain develops.
- You develop fever.
- Signs of infection (swelling, tenderness, redness, warmth) develop at the site of
- Treatment does not relieve symptoms in 1 week.