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Irritant Contact Dermatitis, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Irritant contact dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin caused by direct contact with an allergen or any irritant. Mild irritants can be soap, saliva, sweat, urine and at times even water. Allergens include materials to build homes, deodorants, ointments, clothing, jewellery. It can also occur when treatment for another skin disorder causes an irritation.

Symptoms of Irritant Contact Dermatitis:-

  • Immediate symptom is red rashes which itch
  • Skin redness and inflammation
  • Localized swelling, the area may even become hot
  • Pimple like pustules, blisters which may ooze and become scaly.

Irritant contact dermatitis is common in young adults and elderly people. Women are more vulnerable as compared to men.

Causes of Irritant Contact Dermatitis:-

  • Irritant contact dermatitis is caused by a reaction of the immune system. There is a reaction to some material which has touched the skin at that site and therefore, triggered the skin to flare up. A hypersensitive reaction to a foreign substance is the cause of irritant contact dermatitis.
  • The longer the substance in contact with skin, the more severe is the reaction.
  • People with other skin disorders such as eczema are easily prone to irritant contact dermatitis.
  • Some possible common irritants are household cleaners, cosmetics, medications, rubber, metals, food products…….it can be just anything. The irritants differ from person to person.

Treatment of Irritant Contact Dermatitis:-

In most cases, irritant contact dermatitis does not require any medication.

  • You just have to avoid the causative irritating agent to gradually improve the situation.
  • Initial treatment includes carefully washing the area with a mild soap or cleanser to remove any traces of the irritant or allergen.
  • Avoid scratching the infected area.
  • Avoid further contact with the irritating substance.
  • If blisters develop, you can apply wet cool compresses to provide relief. This can be repeated number of times as required. It soothes the skin and gives immediate relief.
  • Application of calamine lotion also soothes and provides relief.
  • If circumstances risk exposure to the irritant, wear gloves or other protective clothing. Basically, you have to avoid contact with the irritant.
  • Redness usually disappears within a week. Blisters may ooze, become scaly, but will dry and eventually fall off.

If itching continues and redness does not disappear, consult a doctor.

  • He may prescribe topical or oral drugs to relieve itching. Over the counter anti allergen creams and drugs are also available, but they should be taken only on prescription to avoid further complications.

Contact dermatitis usually clears up without complications within 2 or 3 weeks but may recur if the causal agent cannot be recognized or evaded.

  • Change of profession or professional practices may be essential if the condition is caused by professional exposure.

Irritant contact dermatitis is not contagious as the name says. It is very easily curable at home. If you are unable to find out the irritant factor, go for an allergy testing to find out the exact cause and cure yourself. You just have to be careful about this disease or else complications in the form of secondary bacterial infections may occur


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