Contact Dermatitis: First Aid Management

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Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that occurs when an irritant comes into direct contact with the skin causing an allergic reaction or irritation to the skin. This inflammation to the skin often leads to itchy, red rashes. Although uncommon, bacterial infection is the most common complication that can develop. Rarely is it fatal, unless causing anaphylaxis. Contact dermatitis cannot be transmitted from one person to another, however, its presence may be present in many family members (inherited).

Contact dermatitis often leads to a great amount of discomfort to the person suffering from it. Thus, it is highly recommended for individuals to administer first aid. Learn how to apply first aid on contact dermatitis and other common skin conditions by joining First Aid Courses.

Take First Aid Courses in Red Deer to learn how to manage contact dermatitis and other skin conditions
Take First Aid Courses in Red Deer to learn how to manage contact dermatitis and other skin conditions

Types of Contact Dermatitis

There are two types of contact dermatitis: irritant dermatitis and allergic dermatitis. These two kinds of dermatitis result to different reactions to the body.

Irritant Dermatitis

  • More common
  • Irritation occurs to a localized area where the skin comes into direct contact with the irritant

Allergic Dermatitis

  • An allergic reaction occurs after coming into contact with the allergen
  • Makes use of the immune system
  • System-wide reaction

Causes of Contact Dermatitis

The irritants are not always chemicals. Some of the irritants leading to contact dermatitis are objects that do not cause inflammation to most individuals. These include:

Irritant Dermatitis

  • Acids
  • Alkalinic (basic) substances such as soaps, fabric softeners, detergents,
  • Shampoo
  • Hair dye
  • Wet diapers (for infants and adults)
  • Pesticide and weed killer
  • Rubber gloves
  • Cement

Allergic Dermatitis

  • Metals, such as nickel, found in jewelries, buttons
  • Certain fabrics and clothing
  • Rubber/ latex gloves
  • Nail polish
  • Certain substances found in perfumes, cosmetics
  • Adhesives
  • Poison ivy, oak, sumac, and other plants that contain urushiol

Signs and Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis

When the irritant is first exposed to the skin, symptoms do not always manifest immediately. Usually, repeated or prolonged use leads to a sensitivity to these irritants leading to a reaction the next time it is used. Symptoms will be different for every person but the following symptoms are commonly observed:

  • Itching that is relieved upon scratching

Irritant Dermatitis

  • Red, dry and scaly skin
  • Pain
  • Burning sensation
  • Small cuts on the skin

Allergic Dermatitis

  • Patches or streaks of red in the local area
  • Scaly, thick skin
  • Warmness and tenderness
  • Moist, oozing blisters that will crust over

First Aid Management for Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis usually goes away on its own within two to three weeks. It can be managed at home with the following first aid tips:

  • Identify the irritant or allergen and avoid these.
  • If there are remnants of the irritant that are left on the skin, remove it. Wash the afflicted area with plenty of water.
  • To help keep skin moisture, apply topical moisturizers.
  • To minimize the redness and itchiness, apply corticosteroid ointments or creams over the affected area.
  • To reduce itching, one may place wet dressings or antipruritic lotions.

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that occurs when the skin comes into direct contact with an irritant causing irritation to the skin.

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