Contact dermatitis can have many symptoms, though the symptoms will likely vary depending if you have irritant or allergen dermatitis.
When you have irritant contact dermatitis, the symptoms immediately following the skin-irritant contact will range from a mild redness to severe pain and blistering. Your reaction will be localized to the contact site; the rash and blisters shouldn't spread. Some of these symptoms can be severe and may need medical treatment. For example, if blisters are draining fluid, you may need to apply an anti-infection medication and bandages [source: Mayo Clinic].
Some occupations that require people to come in constant contact with cleaning agents and chemicals can cause cumulative irritant contact dermatitis, which results in dry, painful and peeling skin. For example, health care workers and homemakers may wash their hands more than 35 times a day; they are more likely to have contact dermatitis than people who don't wash their hands as often. Hairdressers can experience similar symptoms because they are exposed to skin irritants such as hair dye [source: Hogan].
The symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis start the same as irritant dermatitis but have key differences. The first sign of an allergic reaction may be an itch when the allergen comes in contact with the skin. The itch can progress into redness, swelling or blisters that have a discharge. The reaction starts as a localized rash, but it may spread to a different place from the site of contact. Allergic contact dermatitis usually occurs about 12 to 48 hours from point of exposure and can last for several days, whereas irritant dermatitis reactions appear and fade more quickly [source: CCOHS, Berman].
If you develop symptoms of contact dermatitis, you're going to want to know how to treat it. Read on for treatment tips.