Contact dermatitis develops when your skin touches something that causes a rash. If you’ve ever used a new detergent or skincare product and noticed some skin irritation, you may have experienced contact dermatitis. 

Contact dermatitis, while common, is often bothersome and sends many Americans to seek out the help of an allergist. Most people first experience symptoms during childhood. Avoiding your triggers plays a key role in managing symptoms of contact dermatitis.

What is dermatitis?

The term dermatitis is used to describe skin irritation. While there are many forms of dermatitis, allergy specialist Dr. Ulrike Ziegner here at Riviera Allergy Medical Center commonly treats patients with allergic contact dermatitis. This involves an exaggerated immune response to something in your environment that your skin touches.

The immune system has the crucial job of protecting the body against invaders and foreign substances. In people with contact dermatitis, the body responds to harmless substances as if they’re foreign invaders. It’s this overly sensitive immune reaction that is responsible for such symptoms as:

  • Intense itching
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Hives

Allergic contact dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when you develop a skin allergy to a foreign substance. When you have allergic contact dermatitis, blood cells in your body, known as lymphocytes, release inflammatory chemicals that cause your skin to feel irritated and itchy. Even a small amount of an allergen can be enough to trigger a reaction. 

People with allergic contact dermatitis can develop a skin allergy to just about any substance. Here are the five most common substances likely to cause a reaction:

  • Jewelry made from nickel
  • Perfumes 
  • Chemicals in cosmetics
  • Latex
  • Poison ivy
  • Irritant contact dermatitis

    In addition to allergens, irritating materials can cause dermatitis when they come in contact with the skin. Irritants quickly strip the outer layer of the skin of its oil and moisture, allowing the irritating chemical to penetrate more deeply, triggering inflammation. The five most common irritants that cause contact dermatitis are:

  • Bleach
  • Soap
  • Detergent
  • Drain cleaners
  • Acids
  • The severity of dermatitis varies from person to person and depends on various factors, including length and frequency of exposure, as well as the sensitivity of your skin. Anyone can have irritant contact dermatitis, but your risk increases if you have atopic dermatitis. 

    In some cases, irritant contact dermatitis is due to chemicals you’re exposed to at work. For instance, hairdressers and food handlers commonly experience hand irritant dermatitis.

    Treating contact dermatitis

    Wearing vinyl gloves and protective gear can help prevent irritant contact dermatitis if it isn’t possible to avoid the substance due to work requirements.

    On the other hand, recognizing and avoiding the allergen is the most common approach to treating allergic contact dermatitis.

    How is allergic dermatitis diagnosed?

    Dr. Ziegner uses a simple and painless skin patch test to help determine what substances you’re allergic to. This test goes over 3 days due to the fact that contact dermatitis is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction, caused by blood cells.

    Dermatitis is often the first symptom of allergic disease. Whether it’s triggered by food or something in the environment, you shouldn’t ignore symptoms of a potential allergy. 

    If you’re experiencing skin irritation, Dr. Ziegner can provide you with answers. Make plans to stop in to see us at our Redondo Beach, California, office by calling 310-504-3242 or sending us a message here on our website. You can also use our convenient online request button.

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