Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is inflammation of the skin that occurs when you come into contact with a particular substance.

It can be caused by:

  • an irritant  a substance that directly damages the outer layer of skin
  • an allergen  a substance that causes the immune system to respond in a way that affects the skin

Contact dermatitis caused by irritants is more common, causing up to 8 in every 10 cases.

Read more about the causes of contact dermatitis.

Signs and symptoms

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that causes the skin to become red, blistered, dry, scaly and cracked.

This reaction will usually occur with a few hours or days of exposure to an irritant or allergen.

Symptoms can affect any part of the body, but most commonly affect the hands and face.

Read more about the symptoms of contact dermatitis.

Seeking medical advice

You should see your GP if you have persistent, recurrent or severe symptoms of contact dermatitis. They can try to identify the cause and suggest appropriate treatments.

They can also refer you for further tests to confirm which specific irritant or allergen is causing your symptoms.

Read more about diagnosing contact dermatitis.

How contact dermatitis is treated

If you can successfully avoid the irritants or allergens that trigger your symptoms, your skin will eventually clear up.

However, as this isn't always possible, you may also be advised to use:

With treatment, most people with contact dermatitis can expect their symptoms to improve, and some cases will resolve completely.

Read more about treating contact dermatitis and preventing contact dermatitis

© Crown Copyright 2009

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more here.