Ten Facts about Allergic Contact Dermatitis
While finding yourself with an itchy red rash may not be life threatening, it can be seriously uncomfortable. Often, rashes like these are linked to allergic contact dermatitis. Here’s some information that can make coping with this condition a little more manageable.
- Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by direct contact with a substance. Reactions can occur even if you have been safely exposed to a substance for several years.
- Symptoms generally include an itchy, raised red rash. More severe cases can lead to blistering. Blisters can produce a burning sensation and tenderness. They can swell, ooze, and crust over.
- The rash typically presents itself 12 – 48 hours after exposure to the allergen, although, it may not appear for weeks in certain cases.
- Common allergens that cause contact dermatitis include nickel (which is used in jewelry, buttons, zippers and snaps), medications, insecticides, cosmetics, deodorants, body washes, fabric softeners, lotions, and hair dyes. Plants like poison ivy and wild parsnip are both common where we live and cause allergic contact dermatitis in many people.
- Prevention is always best. Avoid contact with allergens by putting something between you and them. Wearing protective clothing or applying a barrier cream or gel when you have reason to suspect you might encounter poison ivy, for instance, is a good deterrent. Try an over-the-counter product that includes bentoquatam, like IvyBlock.
- If you think you have encountered an allergen, wash your skin. You might be able to remove some of the rash-causing substance before it makes trouble. Use a mild fragrance-free soap and warm water. Rinse completely.
- Note that you can pick up plant allergens from your pets or your clothes, so wash those, as well, to discontinue any further exposure.
- Avoid itching, if possible. Instead apply cool wet compresses and use anti-itch creams, like calamine lotion, to relieve the itch. The rash is not contagious and usually clears up on its own after 2 – 4 weeks.
- If the rash becomes uncomfortable to the point of disrupting sleep or daily activity, if it affects your face or genitals, is widespread, lasts longer than 3 weeks, or if it becomes infected, you should see a doctor or associate provider, as they may prescribe medications to help ease symptoms.
- It is possible to get contact dermatitis in your lungs, eyes, and nasal passages. If they are painful and inflamed, perhaps from inhaling an allergen, or if you think the rash has damaged the mucous lining of your mouth and digestive tract, see your doctor or associate provider.
Spencer Ciancola, PA, works at SVMC ExpressCare and the Respiratory Evaluation Center. ExpressCare recently relocated to 120 Hospital Drive in Bennington. Patients can receive COVID-19 vaccinations at the practice 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. every day.