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Contact Dermatitis Prevention

Preventing contact dermatitis involves avoiding products that irritate your skin. For example, a person who is sensitive to perfume may wish to switch to fragrance-free cosmetics. Contact dermatitis prevention can also involve switching to clothes that are made from natural fibers, such as cotton or silk.

An Introduction to Contact Dermatitis Prevention

Although contact dermatitis cannot always be prevented, there are some things that you can do to help prevent it from occurring. Following are some suggestions for preventing contact dermatitis:
  • Wash new clothing and bed linens several times before using them. Contact dermatitis caused by clothing is usually due to formaldehyde released by chemicals in the finishing of fabrics, and is sometimes due to the dyes. Avoid polyester blends and cottons that are labeled "permanent press" and "wrinkle-resistant," and stick to natural fibers, such as cotton, linen, and silk. (Though wool is a natural fiber, it can be irritating.)
  • Use soaps or detergents specifically formulated for babies' wash if laundry products are under suspicion. Avoid fabric softeners and antistatic products, and double-rinse the wash.
  • Read the labels on cosmetics. The FDA requires that all ingredients in cosmetics be listed on the label in descending order of predominance. If a cosmetic causes a problem, note the ingredients -- fragrances and preservatives are the most likely suspects -- and avoid similar cosmetic formulations in the future. (Specific fragrance components are not listed, so a switch to fragrance-free products should be tried if dermatitis persists.)
  • Wear heavy-duty vinyl gloves with cotton liners, if possible, when hands are in contact with harsh cleansers at home or chemical irritants at work. Avoid abrasive soaps for removing grease and oil. Remove rings when using soaps and detergents, because these materials can become trapped under rings and cause irritation. Keep the hands well-moisturized with a bland cream or lotion.
  • Learn to recognize the leaves of poison ivy and poison oak, each three-leaved, and poison sumac with its oval leaves and white berries. If exposed to them, wash hands and skin thoroughly after exposure, using any kind of soap. Before applying over-the-counter poison ivy preparations, read the labels and use (with caution) medications containing zirconium, benzocaine, and diphenhydramine hydrochloride. Although most people have no problem with these, sometimes they may sensitize and produce dermatitis on top of the poison ivy rash. Dermatitis can result from handling other plants, including vegetables such as parsnips, garlic, onions, tomatoes, carrots, and ginger.
  • Don't self-treat for too long. If the dermatitis is not better after a week or 10 days, see your doctor. The topical medications may be the problem, or the itching and rash may be the symptoms of something quite different. An intolerable itch may be a sign of lice or scabies. Red, itchy rashes can also be caused by superficial fungal infections, such as candidiasis, or impetigo and other bacterial infections.

Contact Dermatitis Information

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