What is Contact Dermatitis and what is the treatment?

Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin reacts to contact with certain substances, like the skin cream mentioned. There may be nothing wrong with the cream itself; each person’s skin varies in sensitivity and what suits one person may not suit another. There are three types of contact dermatitis.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

This condition occurs when the skin develops a reaction after coming into contact with a substance it is allergic to. The body responds by releasing chemicals that cause the skin to become irritated, red and itchy.

The most common cause of this reaction is contact with certain metals used in jewelry such as gold or silver, gloves and other products made of latex, poisonous plants and shrubs such as poison ivy and perfumes, cosmetics and skin care products.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis

This condition occurs when the skin comes into contact with a toxic material, many of which are commonly used in homes. These include bleach, detergents, kerosene, drain cleaning powders and liquids, battery and other types of acid and aerosol sprays of various kinds. It most commonly occurs on the hands (it is also known as “hand eczema”) but can affect any part of the skin. Even nontoxic substances can cause this condition. For example, people whose hands are constantly exposed to water and / or soap, such as cooks, hairdressers and even doctors who need to wash their hands frequently, are prone to this condition.

Contact Dermatitis

This is a very rare occurrence. It happens when the ingredients in sunscreen and other similar substances react to sunlight and cause an allergic reaction.

The Treatment

The first thing to be done when contact dermatitis occurs is to avoid scratching the itchy skin. This will increase the irritation and could even lead to infections that will require the use of antibiotics. Clean the affected area with warm (not hot) water and mild soap to remove any irritants that may be on the skin. Mixing two tablespoons of baking soda in cool water, soaking a clean piece of cloth in the solution, wringing it out and applying it to the skin can provide relieve from the discomfort. If the irritation remains, calamine lotion can be applied to the affected area. The condition will normally clear up in a few days. If it does not, consult a doctor who may prescribe steroid creams or antihistamines to cure to condition.

While contact dermatitis will normally go away on its own with proper home care, if the condition affects a large area of skin or if it is near the eyes, nose or mouth, a doctor should be consulted without delay as the conditions could quickly worse and spread to other parts of the body.

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