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].
For more information on contact dermatitis, look over the links on the following page.
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More Great Links
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac." (8/5/09)http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/skin_poison.html
- Berman, Kevin, MD, PhD. "Medicine Definitions: Contact dermatitis." Mediline Plus. (8/4/09)http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000869.htm
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety. "Dermatitis, Allergic Contact." (8/5/02)http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/allergic_derm.html
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety. "Dermatitis, Irritant Contact." October 15, 2008. (8/7/2009) http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/dermatitis.html
- Dillon, Brian T., MD. "Contact Dermatitis." EMedicineHealth.com. WebMD (8/4/09)http://www.emedicinehealth.com/contact_dermatitis/article_em.htm
- Hogan, Daniel J., MD. "Contact Dermatitis, Irritant." eMedicine from WebMD: Webscape. (8/5/09)http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1049353-overview
- Hubbard, Virginia, MD, and Rustin, Malcom, MD. "Patch testing for skin allergies." NetDoctor.co.uk (8/5/09)http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/health_advice/examinations/patchtesting.htm
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Contact Dermatitis: Causes." Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). July 31, 2009. (8/5/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/contact-dermatitis/DS00985/DSECTION=causes
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Contact Dermatitis: Complications" Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). June 23, 2009. (8/5/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/contact-dermatitis/DS00985/DSECTION=complications
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Contact Dermatitis: Definition." Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). June 23, 2009. (8/5/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/contact-dermatitis/ds00985
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Contact Dermatitis: Symptoms." Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). July 31, 2009. (8/5/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/contact-dermatitis/DS00985/DSECTION=symptoms
- MedilinePlus.gov. "Evening Primrose Oil." January 1, 2008. (8/5/09)http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-primrose.html
- Schoenstadt, Arthur, MD. "Treatment for Contact Dermatitis." eMedTV.com. (8/5/09)http://skin.emedtv.com/contact-dermatitis/treatment-for-contact-dermatitis.html
- Stoppler, Melissa Conrad. "Eczema." MedicineNet.com. February 11, 2008. (8/7/2009) http://www.medicinenet.com/eczema/article.htm