Treatment for contact dermatitis can help most people manage their symptoms. Some people may find their symptoms clear up entirely.
There are several ways to treat contact dermatitis, including:
These are explained below.
One of the most important steps in treating contact dermatitis is identifying and avoiding the allergens or irritants that affect you. If you can successfully avoid or reduce your exposure to the cause, you shouldn't experience any symptoms.
It's not always easy to avoidirritants or allergens that affect you, but your GP or dermatologist (specialist in treating skin conditions)can find waysto minimise your contact with them.
If you're exposed to irritants as part of your job, wear protective clothing to minimise any contact. Tell your employer about your condition, so they can help you avoid the causes as much as possible.
Emollients are moisturising treatments applied directly to the skin to reduce water loss and cover it with a protective film. They're often used to help manage dry or scaly skin conditions such as eczema.
Several different emollients areavailable. You may need to trya fewto find one that works for you. You may also be advised to use a mix of emollients, such as:
The difference between lotions, creams and ointments is the amount of oil they contain. Ointments contain the most oil, so they can be quite greasy, but are the most effective at keeping moisture in the skin. Lotions contain the least amount of oil, so aren't greasy, but can be less effective. Creams are somewhere in between.
Creams and lotions tend to be more suitable for red, inflamed (swollen) areas of skin. Ointments are more suitable for areas of dry skin that aren't inflamed.
If you've been using a particular emollient for some time, it may eventually become less effective or may start to irritate your skin. If this is the case, your GP can prescribe another product.
Use your emollient frequently and in large amounts. Manypeople find it helpfulto keep separate supplies of emollients at work or school.
To apply the emollient:
If you're exposed to irritants at work that cause your contact dermatitis, make sure you apply emollients regularly during and after work.
Don't share emollients with other people.
Occasionally, some emollients can irritate the skin. If you have contact dermatitis, your skin will be sensitive and can sometimes react to certain ingredients, such as perfume in over-the-counter emollients.
If your skin reacts to the emollient, stop using it and speak to your GP, who can recommend an alternative product.
Be aware that some emollients contain paraffin and can be a fire hazard, so shouldn't be used near a naked flame. Emollients added to bath water can make your bath very slippery, so take care getting in and out of the bath.
If your skin is very red, sore and inflamed, your GP may prescribe a topical corticosteroid (a cream or ointment applied directly to your skin), which can quickly reduce the inflammation.
When used as instructed by your pharmacist or doctor, corticosteroids are a safe andeffective treatment for contact dermatitis.
Different strengths oftopical corticosteroids can be prescribed, depending on the severity of your contact dermatitis and where the affected skin is.
You may be prescribed:
When using corticosteroids, apply the treatment in a thin layer to all the affected areas. Unless instructed otherwise by your doctor, follow the directions on the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication.This willgive detailsof how much to apply.
During an episode of severe contact dermatitis,don't apply the corticosteroid more than twice a day. Most people only have to apply it once a day.
You should apply your emollient first and wait around 30 minutes before applying the topical corticosteroid.
The medication will usually start to have an effect within a few days. Speak to your GP if you've been using a topical corticosteroid and your symptoms haven't improved.
Topical corticosteroids may cause a mild and short-lived burning or stinging sensation as you apply them. In some cases, they may also cause:
Most of these side effects will improve once treatment stops.
Generally, using a stronger topical corticosteroid or using a large amount of topical corticosteroid increases your risk of getting side effects. You should use the weakest and smallest amount possible to control your symptoms.
If you have a severe episode of contact dermatitis and it coversa large area ofyour skin, yourdoctor may prescribe corticosteroid tablets.
You may be prescribed steroid tablets to take for five to seven days. Depending on how effective this is, your dose may then be may gradually reduced over two to three weeks.
If steroid tablets are taken often or for a long time, they can cause a number of side effects, such as:
For this reason, your doctor is unlikely to prescribe repeat courses ofcorticosteroid tablets without referring you to a specialist.
If the treatments prescribed by your GParen't successfully controlling your symptoms, they may refer you for assessment and treatment by a dermatologist.
Further treatmentsthat may be available fromyour dermatologist include:
Some people may choose to use complementary therapies for contact dermatitis, such as food supplements or herbal remedies, but there isoften a lack of evidence to show they are effective in treating the condition.
If you are thinking about using a complementary therapy, speak to your GP first to make sure the therapy is safe for you to use. You should continue to use any other treatments prescribed by your GP.
Read about contact dermatitis, a type of eczema that causes inflammation of the skin when you come into contact with a particular substance
Read about the symptoms of contact dermatitis, which include red, inflamed (swollen), blistered, dry, thickened and cracked skin
Read about the causes of contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis occurs when your skin reacts to a particular substance.
Read about diagnosing contact dermatitis. Your GP can usually diagnose contact dermatitis from the appearance of your skin and by asking about your symptoms.
Read about treating contact dermatitis. Treatment can help most people manage their contact dermatitis, and some people may find their symptoms clear up entirely