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Contact Dermatitis


Treating Contact Dermatitis

To treat contact dermatitis, wash the area that comes in contact with an irritant or allergen as thoroughly and as quickly as possible. Try to pinpoint what caused the inflammation -- you'll want to avoid it in the future. If the source of the contact can be determined, the symptoms should disappear in one or two weeks [source: Mayo Clinic]. Sometimes it may be difficult to pinpoint the source because symptoms may not appear for up to two days after exposure [source: Berman].

Once you have contact dermatitis, you just have to treat the symptoms. To reduce inflammation and itchiness, apply a wet compress or washcloth soaked in water, milk or saline solution to the rash. Then apply a topical cream that has an anti-itch ingredient, which may also reduce inflammation. While calamine lotion will help stop the itching, it should not be used for extended periods of time [source: Schoenstadt]. Try to avoid scratching the area as much as possible, as persistent scratching can cause a skin infection and permanent scarring [source: Mayo Clinic]. Overuse of medications may cause other skin problems, so follow the recommended directions. In severe cases of contact dermatitis, a doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid cream or ointment. And if you develop a bacterial infection due to itching, you may have to take antibiotics [source: Berman].

The best way to treat contact dermatitis is to avoid getting it in the first place. To do this, you can get a patch test from your dermatologist, which will help you figure out if substances are irritants or allergens. During a patch test, the doctor will apply common allergens to your skin under adhesive tape; these allergens are left in place for up to 48 hours. If you develop a rash or bump on the skin that has been in contact with an allergen, you may be allergic to that substance -- and should avoid it [source: Mayo Clinic].

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