Medications and Other Options for Contact Dermatitis
Medications Used to Treat Contact DermatitisDepending on the severity of a patient's contact dermatitis, treatment with medications may also be recommended. Most of the time, these medications are applied directly to the skin. For example, for mild contact dermatitis, a 1-percent hydrocortisone topical preparation (available as an ointment, cream, or lotion) available over the counter can be applied to the skin to relieve the itchiness, redness, scaling, and swelling. These medicines should not be used internally or on children under two years old.
For more severe cases, your healthcare provider may have to prescribe a stronger steroid medicine to be put on the affected area, taken by mouth, or given as an injection. Prednisone is an example of a corticosteroid that may be taken by mouth or injected. Some other medicines may include:
- Antihistamines for controlling itching -- sedative types for nighttime sedation; and non-sedating types for daytime use. Sedative types include diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) and hydroxyzine (Atarax®). Non-sedating types of antihistamines can include cetirizine (Zyrtec®), loratadine (Claritin®), and fexofenadine (Allegra®).
- Antibiotics, when a bacterial infection is present.
Other TreatmentsDepending on the cause of contact dermatitis, your healthcare provider may recommend other treatments. For example, treatment for poison oak or ivy may also include:
- Thoroughly washing the skin with soap and water as soon as possible after the exposure.
- Washing clothing and all objects that touched the plant to prevent re-exposure.
- Using cold wet compresses with saline, water, milk, or aluminum subacetate.
- Shake lotions, such as calamine lotion. As the name implies, shake lotions must be shaken before being applied in order to mix the active ingredient. These medicines help with itching, but should not be used for extended periods of time.
- Short cool tub baths with or without colloidal oatmeal (Aveeno®).
For other cases of contact dermatitis, your healthcare provider may recommend lubricating creams and ointments to help restore the skin's moisture, increase the rate of healing, and establish a barrier against further drying and irritation. Some of these skin lubricants include Eucerin®, Aquaphor®, and Cetaphil®. A mild bar soap or non-soap cleanser may also be recommended because normal soaps can be drying to the skin.