Contact Dermatitis

What is contact dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is a skin condition, often in the form of a rash, hives, or red, itchy bumps, that is caused by contact with something that a child is sensitive or allergic to. Common irritants or allergens include:

  • Poison Ivy
  • Jewelry (often from nickel exposure)
  • Sunscreen or fragrant soaps
  • Rubber
  • Certain deodorants
  • Bleach
  • Hand sanitizers

Keeping a record of activities and possible items that may have triggered the reaction will better enable an allergist to identify the allergen or irritant. A list of what has touched the person's skin over a 48 hour period will reduce the number of possible culprits.

Photoallergic contact dermatitis occurs when an irritant or allergen causes a reaction only after being exposed to the sun. This can occur with sunscreens, shaving lotion, and some perfumes.

What are the symptoms of contact dermatitis?

  • Red, irritated skin
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Bumps or blisters, sometimes filled with clear fluid
  • Hot or tender skin

These symptoms vary from mild to severe, and they may arise anywhere from a few hours to 10 days after coming being exposed to the irritant or allergen. A contact dermatitis rash does not spread.

How is contact dermatitis treated?

There are two steps in treating contact dermatitis: First, treat the skin's reaction. Second, identify what caused the reaction so a child can avoid contact with the allergen or irritant can be avoided in the future.

If you or a child comes into contact with a potential allergen or irritant, immediately wash the affected area with soap and water. It is important to help your child learn not to scratch the affected area to avoid infection.

Specialists in our Pediatric Allergy Program can help you identify the cause of your child's contact dermatitis and create a treatment plan. We may prescribe creams or, less frequently, oral medication to control the itching and enable the skin to heal. Antihistamines and ointments may provide some benefit.

Our allergists may use a patch test to determine the cause, testing substances such as rubber, fragrances, or hair dye as potential irritants and allergens. The patch is worn for at least 48 hours.