Contact Dermatitis is the inflammation of the skin due to direct contact with the inducing substance to which the skin reacts. Primary irritants are substances which are toxic to the skin. Some substances may trigger allergic reaction such as cosmetic additives, plant oils, latex rubber additives, metals, and industrial chemicals.

Contact Dermatitis has two types which often appear identical. Symptoms may include:

  • Red Rash or Blister on the Skin
  • Itchyness especially when near the Allergen
  • Pain or Burning Sensation on the Affected Part
  • Hives

The two types are:

  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis – It results from an immune response to specific allergens. T-lymphocytes, a type of blood cell, release a variety of chemicals when in contact with the allergen and produce an itchy dermatitis. Common causes of Allergic contact dermatitis are:
    • Plants such as Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac
    • The Fragrances in Soaps and Preservatives and Emulsifiers in Shampoos, Lotions, Perfumes, and Cosmetics
    • Components of Hair Dyes or Straighteners
    • Metallic Nickel in Jewelry and Belt Buckles
    • Leather Tanning Agents
    • Chemical Additives to Latex Rubber
  • Irritant Contact Dermatitis – In this condition, the substance in contact with the skin is simply toxic. No allergy needed. Various chemicals such as industrial cleaning products, solvents and household cleaners (detergents) can cause this condition.


A full history and physical examination are needed to diagnose Contact Dermatitis and to determine whether it is Allergic or Irritant. For determining and knowing the cause of allergic contact dermatitis, a technique called “patch testing” might be useful. A series of exposures are needed to manifest that the person has allergic reaction to a particular substance. In this case, Allergic contact dermatitis is more challenging to diagnose than Irritant Contact Dermatitis. Dermatitis caused by plants may be easy to confirm because of the pattern it makes to the affected skin. It usually appears as a linear eruption because the affected skin moves past the leaves of the plant in a line, distributing the allergenic material linearly.



Getting rid of the cause would be the best treatment. If you know what causes your rash, better avoid contact with the substance again. For easing the discomfort, a hydrocortisone cream may be used to cover a small affected area. Washing  your skin with mild soap and cool water right away may also help in treating the symptoms.



Avoidance of the substance that causes contact dermatitis is all you need. However, if contact with these particular substances would be inevitable, you can try some precautionary methods such as wearing of protective clothing or applying barrier creams.

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