Initial treatment includes thorough washing with lots of water to remove any trace of the irritant that may remain on the skin. You should avoid further exposure to known irritants or allergens.
In some cases, the best treatment is to do nothing to the area.
Corticosteroid skin creams or ointments may reduce inflammation. Carefully follow the instructions when using these creams, because overuse, even of low-strength over-the-counter products, may cause a troublesome skin condition. In severe cases, systemic corticosteroids may be needed to reduce inflammation. These are usually tapered gradually over about 12 days to prevent recurrence of the rash. In addition to or instead of corticosteroid skin treatment, your doctor may prescribe tacrolimus ointment or pimecrolimus cream.
Wet dressings and soothing anti-itch (antipruritic) or drying lotions may be recommended to reduce other symptoms.
Contact dermatitis usually clears up without complications within 2 or 3 weeks, but may return if the substance or material that caused it cannot be identified or avoided. A change of occupation or occupational habits may be necessary if the disorder is caused by occupational exposure.
Secondary bacterial skin infections may occur.
Calling Your Health Care Provider
Call your health care provider if symptoms indicate contact dermatitis and it is severe or there is no improvement after treatment.
Review Date : 11/1/2009
Reviewed By : Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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