What is contact dermatitis? Here’s what you need to know about the skin condition

Have you ever used a new type of skin care product or detergent, only to have your skin become red and irritated? If so, you may have experienced contact dermatitis. This condition occurs when chemicals you come into contact with cause a reaction. Most contact dermatitis reactions aren’t severe, but they can be unpleasant until the itching goes away

Image Source: Google
Image Source: Google

Sulekha Patil, (name changed) used to feel a burning sensation whenever she used soap, cut vegetables and fruits which oozed juices. Her fingers and palms became wrinkly as if they had been soaking in water for too long. On extended exposure with these things her skin would become dry and it would start itching.

When she could no longer bear the itchiness, she decided to visit a skin specialist to know what was the cause of this and what did these symptoms mean?

Her dermatologist told her that she is affected with a condition known as contact dermatitis.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Chitra Naik, a dermatologist from Mumbai’s civic-run Nair Hospital, said, “In contact dermatitis, your skin can have a reaction when you touch a thing that you are allergic o. It causes rashes and itching sensation on the hands and legs, it usually isn’t a severe or dangerous condition.”

Dr Naik further said, “People should avoid soap, shampoo, and certain fruits which ooze juices if their skin reacts with it on contact. Such people should wear gloves while handling these things.”

Want to know more contact dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is a red, itchy rash caused by direct contact with a substance or an allergic reaction to it. The rash isn’t contagious or life-threatening, but it can be very uncomfortable.

Many substances can cause such reactions, including soaps, cosmetics, fragrances, jewelry and plants.

To treat contact dermatitis successfully, you need to identify and avoid the cause of your reaction. If you can avoid the offending substance, the rash usually clears up in two to four weeks. You can try soothing your skin with cool, wet compresses, anti-itch creams and other self-care steps.


Contact dermatitis usually occurs on areas of your body that have been directly exposed to the reaction-causing substance — for example, along a calf that brushed against poison ivy or under a watchband. The rash usually develops within minutes to hours of exposure and can last two to four weeks.

Signs and symptoms of contact dermatitis include:

  • A red rash.
  • Itching, which may be severe.
  • Dry, cracked, scaly skin.
  • Bumps and blisters, sometimes with oozing and crusting.
  • Swelling, burning or tenderness.

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if:

  • The rash is so uncomfortable that you are losing sleep or are distracted from your daily activities.
  • The rash is sudden, painful, severe or widespread.
  • You’re embarrassed by the way your skin looks
  • The rash doesn’t get better within three weeks.
  • The rash affects your face or genitals.

Seek immediate medical care in the following situations:

  • You think your skin is infected. Clues include fever and pus oozing from blisters
  • Your lungs, eyes or nasal passages are painful and inflamed, perhaps from inhaling an allergen
  • You think the rash has damaged the mucous lining of your mouth and digestive tract.

Source: Mayo Clinic