Contact Dermatitis

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is contact dermatitis contagious?

    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.

  • How long does contact dermatitis last?

    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.

  • What are the treatments for contact dermatitis?

    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.

  • What causes contact dermatitis?

    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.

  • What does contact dermatitis look like?

    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.

Key Terms

A Closer Look at Contact 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.

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Page Sources
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  1. Mayo Clinic. Dermatitis.