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Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Symptoms of Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Symptoms of this condition usually occur in the area where the substance came in allergic contact with the skin. However, it is possible for other areas to be affected.
Allergic contact dermatitis affects people differently; therefore, symptoms will vary. The condition may cause small or large blisters over the affected area. The skin may also be red and swollen -- and become very itchy. These symptoms are common with poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac. Other cases of allergic contact dermatitis may result in a chronic case of eczema. In these cases, the skin can become dry and leathery.
(Click Contact Dermatitis Symptoms for more information on specific symptoms of this condition.)

Making a Diagnosis

In order to diagnose allergic contact dermatitis, the healthcare provider will ask a number of questions about when the symptoms started, what types of skin care products you use, what you do for a living, and what your hobbies are. He or she will also look at the rash.
Based on the answers to the questions, as well as the way the rash looks, your healthcare provider may have a general idea of what is causing your symptoms. If he or she thinks this is allergic contact dermatitis, specific treatments will be recommended. If your healthcare provider is unsure, he or she may also recommend additional tests to help narrow down the cause. One of these tests is called patch testing.
(Click Diagnosing Contact Dermatitis to learn more.)

Treating Allergic Contact Dermatitis

The recommended treatment in your particular situation will depend on several factors, including:
  • The cause of your symptoms
  • The severity of your symptoms
  • Your age and overall health.
Treatments for allergic contact dermatitis may include:
  • Avoiding the substance. Figuring out what is causing allergic contact dermatitis and then avoiding it will go a long way toward helping current symptoms, as well as preventing a reoccurrence in the future.
  • Medications. Depending on the severity of the dermatitis, treatment with medications may be recommended. Your doctor may recommend a medication that is applied directly to the affected area, taken by mouth, or taken by injection. Medications may include: steroids to help with the redness, itching, and swelling; antihistamines to help with itching; and antibiotics if the area has become infected.
  • Lubricants or other treatments. Lubricant creams or ointments, such as Cetaphil®, Eucerin®, and Aquaphor®, help to restore the skin's moisture, increase the rate of healing, and establish a barrier against further drying and irritation. Other treatments, such as wet compresses or colloidal oatmeal (Aveeno®), may be recommended with certain types of allergic contact dermatitis.
(Click Treatment for Contact Dermatitis to learn more about treating this condition. Click Contact Dermatitis Prevention to learn more about preventing it.)

Contact Dermatitis Information

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