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Contact dermatitis is a reaction that happens after your skin comes in contact with certain substances.
Skin irritants cause most contact dermatitis reactions. Other cases are caused by allergens, which trigger an allergic response. The reaction may not start until 24 to 48 hours after exposure. Contact dermatitis, caused by an irritant that is not an allergic response, happens from direct contact with the irritant.
Allergic contact dermatitis most commonly affects adults, but it can affect people of all ages.
Some of the most common causes of contact dermatitis include:
Plants, metals, cosmetics, and medicines may also cause a contact dermatitis reaction:
Poison ivy is part of a plant family that includes poison oak and sumac. It is one of the most common causes of a contact dermatitis reaction.
Many chemical agents can cause allergic contact dermatitis. Nickel, chrome, and mercury are the most common metals that cause contact dermatitis:
Many types of cosmetics can cause allergic contact dermatitis. Permanent hair dyes that contain paraphenylenediamine are often causes. Other products that may cause problems include dyes used in clothing, perfumes, eye shadow, nail polish, lipstick, and some sunscreens.
Neomycin is found in antibiotic creams, such as triple antibiotic ointment. It is a common cause of medicine-related contact dermatitis. Penicillin, sulfa medicines, and local anesthetics, such as procaine hydrochloride or paraben, are other possible causes.
The following are the most common symptoms of contact dermatitis. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The most severe reaction is at the contact site. The symptoms of contact dermatitis may look like other skin conditions. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Diagnosis is usually based on a medical history and physical exam. Patch testing can be done to identify the allergen that is causing the rash. A skin biopsy may also be performed.
Specific treatment for contact dermatitis will be determined by your healthcare provider based on:
The best treatment is to identify and avoid the substances that may have caused the allergic reaction. The following are common treatment recommendations for mild to moderate reactions:
If the reaction is significant and the substance that caused it can't be determined, your healthcare provider may do a series of patch tests to help identify the irritant.
The only way to prevent contact dermatitis is to avoid contact with the irritant or allergen that causes it.
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