Contact Dermatitis

You know it as a rash, but medical professionals refer to it as dermatitis. Whatever you may want to call it, dermatitis causes your skin to get inflamed and irritated upon contacting a trigger substance.  This reaction may be due to contact with an allergen or the protective barrier of your skin may be defective.

Allergy Triggers

If your skin reacts to contact with an allergen, your immune system plays a role in the process. Upon contact with a substance that you are allergic to, your immune system mistakes this contact as an attack, producing antibodies to fend off the danger in defense. A series of events leads to the secretion of certain chemicals, histamine included. The release of histamine results in the allergic response that is characterized as a red, itchy rash.  This reaction is known as allergic contact dermatitis.

Some of the most common contact dermatitis trigger substances are:

– Plants such as poison ivy and oak

– Beauty products and cosmetics containing harsh chemicals such as hair dyes, fragrances, lotions, and shampoos

– Nickel, which is not the coin but the type of used to make some kinds of accessories and jewelry

– Leather and latex

– Some fruits such as the citrus family

– Certain topical medicines

In most cases, individuals do not break out in a rash after the first exposure to an allergen. However, repeated contact increases your skin’s sensitivity to the substance in question, eventually leading to an allergic reaction. If you broke out in a rash upon the first exposure to a trigger, the odds are you have been in contact with the substance before without knowing.

Damage to the Skin

In some cases, a rash may resemble an allergic reaction but isn’t really caused by contact with an allergen. In such cases, the immune system does not play a part. This reaction occurs when your skin gets in contact with a substance that removes the protective oil in the outer layer of the skin where the longer the exposure, the worse the symptoms are. This is what is known as irritant contact dermatitis–another type of contact dermatitis. Individuals with eczema are more prone to developing irritant contact dermatitis.

The Causes of the Rash

In both allergic and irritant contact dermatitis, the symptoms are nearly identical. Both types of contact dermatitis can cause red, raised, inflamed, and itchy patches. When the skin gets exposed to an irritant, a rash typically appears immediately. When the skin is exposed to an allergen, however, it takes a couple of days for the skin to break out in a rash. Allergy contact dermatitis typically appears at the site of contact with an allergen. Irritant contact dermatitis usually feels more like a painful burn than an itchy irritation.

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Posted on May 22, 2023