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Images of Irritant Contact Dermatitis (15)
Irritant Contact Dermatitis
Irritant contact dermatitis is an inflammatory rash caused by direct physical or chemical injury to the skin. Unlike allergic contact dermatitis, which appears 24-72 hours after exposure to an allergen, the symptoms of irritant contact dermatitis can result within a few hours, especially with exposure to a strong irritant.
Most individuals notice a burning or stinging sensation shortly after exposure to the irritant as well as a rash. The rash may then become itchy.
Common irritants causing irritant contact dermatitis include soaps and detergents, solvents, mild acids, and chemicals with a high pH (alkalis), fiberglass, hair products, bleach, rubber gloves, and plants.
Who's At Risk?
Irritant contact dermatitis can occur in anyone at any age.
- People with a history of eczema (atopic dermatitis) commonly experience irritant contact dermatitis.
- People who live in dry climates are predisposed to irritant contact dermatitis.
- Certain activities and jobs can predispose people to irritant contact dermatitis, such as cleaning, health care work, construction work, food preparation, and hairdressing.
Signs & Symptoms
The most common location for irritant contact dermatitis is the hands, although any body surface can be involved, including the genitals.
- The affected areas appear as pink-to-red macules (small, flat, smooth areas) or patches (larger flat, smooth areas). In darker skin colors, the redness may be harder to see or may appear more purple or gray.
- The areas may have a sharp border corresponding to the irritant exposure.
- In long-standing cases, the affected areas may become scaly or crack.
- When on the fingertips, the skin may become scaly, crack, or peel.
- Try to avoid further exposure to the irritant, if known, or protect the skin from re-exposure.
- For irritated skin in body folds, consider applying a barrier cream with zinc oxide paste, such as Desitin.
- Apply petroleum jelly (eg, Vaseline) or a thick moisturizing cream (eg, CeraVe moisturizing cream) to wet skin after bathing or washing. Reapply at least twice daily to help further protect the affected skin areas.
- For itchy areas, try applying over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or ointment (0.5%-1%) twice daily.
Your medical professional may prescribe a topical steroid.
Seek medical evaluation for a rash that does not resolve with self-care measures.
Bolognia J, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018.
James WD, Elston D, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA. Andrew’s Diseases of the Skin. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019.
Kang S, Amagai M, Bruckner AL, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology. 9th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education; 2019.
Paller A, Mancini A. Paller and Mancini: Hurwitz Clinical Pediatric Dermatology. 6th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022.
Last modified on September 18th, 2023 at 1:31 pm
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