Casey Gallagher, MD, is board-certified in dermatology. He is a clinical professor at the University of Colorado in Denver, and co-founder and practicing dermatologist at the Boulder Valley Center for Dermatology in Colorado.
Contact dermatitis develops when your skin comes in contact with a substance that irritates your skin, or one to which you are allergic.
The classic symptoms of contact dermatitis are an itchy, red rash, often with bumps and blisters. Other symptoms include dry skin, cracking, burning, and flaking.
Contact dermatitis can come on quickly, in the case of acute contact dermatitis, or develop slowly and be more long-lasting, as in chronic contact dermatitis.
No, contact dermatitis is not contagious and cannot spread from person to person. If you have a rash that you think you may have caught from someone else, it’s not contact dermatitis and needs to be evaluated by your doctor.
Once you and your doctor figure out what is causing your contact dermatitis, you will be able to avoid the offending substance, and the rash should clear up within three weeks or so. If it lasts longer or gets worse, talk to your doctor.
Contact dermatitis is an incredibly common skin rash. Most cases can be treated at home and will go away within a few weeks. For more stubborn cases, prescription corticosteroids may be needed. In any case, identifying and avoiding the triggering substance is imperative to allow the skin to heal.
Contact dermatitis can be caused by a skin irritant, such as chemicals in soaps, bleaches, dyes, and solvents. Another type, allergic contact dermatitis, is caused by an allergic reaction to allergens such as nickel, adhesives, plants, cosmetics, and some topical medications.
Contact dermatitis is characterized by a red rash and, in some cases, bumps, dry and cracked skin, and blisters. Chronic contact dermatitis may simply look like patches of extra dry, reddened, or rough skin, while acute contact dermatitis comes on quickly with more obvious symptoms. Poison ivy rash is one example of acute contact dermatitis.
An abnormal immune system response to normally harmless substances, called allergens. In contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction to an irritant causes contact dermatitis, characterized by a rash.
A general term that describes a type of skin irritation. Dermatitis is a common condition that has many causes and occurs in many forms, including contact dermatitis, dandruff, and atopic dermatitis (eczema).
A term typically used to describe a rash that is widespread over the body, symmetric, and red with macules or papules, but without scales. Exanthems are usually caused by viral or bacterial infections, but can also be caused by drugs, toxins, or autoimmune diseases. The rash is sometimes itchy, but not always.
The most common form of allergic contact dermatitis. Nickel is often found in jewelry; in someone with a nickel allergy, a dry or blistering itchy skin rash at the site of contact—on the earlobes from earrings, on the neckline from a necklace, or on the wrist from a bracelet or wristwatch.
A procedure used to identify causes of contact dermatitis. The patch consists of a variety of different allergens which are applied in little dots on an adhesive sheet to a person’s back. If there is a visible reaction to one or more of the dots after a few days, that may be the cause of the dermatitis.
Explore an interactive model that shows how allergens or irritants can trigger an inflammatory response under the skin, causing the familiar symptoms of contact dermatitis.
Mayo Clinic. Dermatitis.