Contact Dermatitis: What You Need To Know

Dermatitis is essentially a skin inflammation or irritation. Contact dermatitis is a type of skin rash that occurs when the skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant. It is a common skin condition, affecting millions of people worldwide. Symptoms include redness, itching, burning, scaling, and blistering of the affected area. This can occur in response to contact with various substances such as detergents, soaps, perfumes, cosmetics, metal jewelry and plants.

9 Professions Most Susceptible to Getting Contact Dermatitis

When it comes to irritant reactions, they may be a result of either one-time or repeated exposure to certain chemicals. Allergies, however, require multiple exposures before developing. Those who work in particular professions have an elevated risk of getting contact dermatitis due to their increased contact with the toxin source.

1. Health professionals: Those who work in healthcare, including nurses, doctors, and medical technicians are particularly susceptible to contact dermatitis due to their frequent contact with cleaning chemicals and disinfectants.

2. Cosmetologists: Hairdressers and makeup artists may have contact dermatitis due to their contact with dyes and other cosmetics containing irritants or allergens.

3. Food handlers: People who work in the food industry, such as chefs and waiters, are subject to contact dermatitis due to contact with oils, spices, and other ingredients.

4. Cleaning staff: Those who work in cleaning services may suffer contact dermatitis because of their contact with soaps, detergents, and other cleaning chemicals.

5. Industrial workers: People who work in factories or industrial settings may contact contact dermatitis due to contact with strong solvents, metals, and other hazardous materials.

6. Mechanics: Car mechanics are particularly prone to contact dermatitis due to contact with grease, oil and other lubricants.

7. Gardeners: Gardeners, landscapers, and other outdoor workers may contact contact dermatitis due to contact with plants, insecticides, and other chemicals found in the environment.

8. Textile workers: People who work with fabrics may contact contact dermatitis due to contact with dyes and other chemicals used in the textile industry.

9. Laborers: Industrial laborers, including construction workers and miners, are also at risk of contact dermatitis due to contact with hazardous materials and dangerous tools.

Types of Contact Dermatitis

There are two main types of contact dermatitis:

1. Irritant contact dermatitis:

This type of contact dermatitis is caused by contact with irritating chemicals or other substances that cause inflammation and dryness in the skin. Symptoms of irritant contact dermatitis include red, cracked, itchy patches on the skin, as well as burning or stinging sensations when contact occurs.

2. Allergic contact dermatitis:

This type of contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction to certain substances such as nickel, latex, cosmetics, fragrances, or dyes. Symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis are similar to those of irritant contact dermatitis but may also include swelling and blisters in addition to red patches on the skin. If left untreated, these symptoms can worsen over time.

Both types of contact dermatitis can be treated with topical medications and avoidance of contact with the irritant or allergen.

Causes and Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis

Contact Dermatitis Causes

The main cause of contact dermatitis is contact with irritants or allergens. These contact irritants can come in contact with the skin through direct contact, inhalation or ingestion. Common contact dermatitis causes include:

- Certain metals such as nickel and cobalt

- Cosmetics, fragrances and preservatives

- Poison Ivy and other plants

- Industrial chemicals such as solvents, latex and rubber

- Certain foods including dairy and seafood

- Adhesives used for bandages and other medical products

- Detergents, fabric softeners and cleaning products.

If contact dermatitis is suspected, it is important to seek medical advice in order to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Contact Dermatitis Symptoms

Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction that appears on the skin when it comes into contact with certain irritants or allergens. This condition typically presents with a red, itchy rash which can be both uncomfortable and unsightly. Common contact dermatitis symptoms range from mild to severe and include:

If you experience any of the contact dermatitis symptoms listed above, it's important to take action as soon as possible. Start by washing your skin with mild soap and water to remove any contact irritants or allergens. Avoid contact with the allergen if possible. Applying a cold compress to the affected area can help soothe irritation and reduce swelling. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream may also be used to help reduce inflammation. If contact dermatitis symptoms persist, contact your doctor for further treatment options. It's also important to note that contact dermatitis can be recurrent, so it's important to take preventative steps to avoid contact with the allergen in the future.

By following these steps, contact dermatitis symptoms should begin to improve in a short period of time. However, if contact dermatitis symptoms persist or worsen, contact your local dermatologist immediately.

**Note: This content was written for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please contact your doctor for medical advice and treatment.**

Diagnosis & Testing for Contact Dermatitis


Diagnosis of contact dermatitis typically begins with a physical examination of the affected area. During this exam, the doctor may take into account any contact that you have had with potential allergens or irritants, such as contact with certain substances at work. The doctor may also take a small skin sample for examination under a microscope in order to check for signs of contact dermatitis.


Tests can include patch testing, which involves applying potential allergens to the skin to check for reactions. Blood tests are sometimes used if results from other forms of testing are inconclusive.

Management & Treatment For Contact Dermatitis

If contact dermatitis is diagnosed, treatment typically consists of avoiding contact with the allergen or irritant and using topical medications, such as corticosteroids, antihistamines and moisturizers, to reduce inflammation and itching. In some cases, oral medications may be prescribed.

It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions when treating contact dermatitis in order to ensure the best possible outcome.

Potential Complications of Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis is a common skin condition that results from contact with an allergen. The primary symptoms of contact dermatitis include itching, redness and swelling of the affected area. While contact dermatitis is generally a mild condition, it can become more severe if left untreated. Potential complications of contact dermatitis include infection, contact sensitization, contact urticaria and more.

Infection: If contact dermatitis is left untreated, it can allow bacteria to enter the skin and cause an infection. This is called impetigo and can be treated with antibiotics.

Contact sensitization: Contact sensitization occurs when contact with the allergen causes a reaction, even if contact with the allergen has happened previously without any reaction. This type of contact dermatitis is often seen in professional occupations where contact with the allergen is frequent, such as hairdressers, cleaners, and healthcare workers.

Contact urticaria: Contact urticaria is an allergic reaction that appears as a red, itchy rash on contact with the allergen. This type of contact dermatitis is more common in people who have a history of allergies.

Although, allergic contact dermatitis is usually a mild condition, under certain circumstances, it can lead to a life threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure and result in breathing difficulties, unconsciousness, or even death. Therefore, it is important to contact a medical professional immediately if you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with anaphylaxis.

If you believe that you are in the throes of anaphylaxis, dial 911 immediately! An injection of epinephrine is necessary to stop this kind of allergic reaction. Those who have allergies should always carry a device such as an EpiPen®, which contains injectable epinephrine and can be administered in case of emergency.

Prevention of Contact Dermatitis

In order to prevent contact dermatitis, it is important to identify and avoid contact with any potential irritants or allergens. It is also beneficial to practice good skin care habits. These include avoiding hot water or harsh soaps when washing, drying the skin gently after bathing, and applying a moisturizing cream regularly.

When working with chemicals, wearing protective gloves can reduce contact irritation from hand contact. Additionally, make sure to always wash hands thoroughly after contact with potentially harmful substances.

If contact dermatitis occurs despite taking preventive measures, speak to a doctor about available treatment options. Early diagnosis and treatment are important for managing contact dermatitis symptoms before they become worse.


The information on contact dermatitis in this article was sourced from the following articles:

- Mayo Clinic. "Contact Dermatitis." Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 7 Aug. 2019,

- "Potential Complications of Allergic Contact Dermatitis." Allergy Partners, 6 Oct. 2020,

- Skonnard, Austin. "What Is Anaphylaxis? | EpiPen." EpiPen,

- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. "Prevention & Treatment of Contact Dermatitis." NIH, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dec. 2017,