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What is Contact Dermatitis?

Spring hasn’t quite sprung yet, but it’s getting close. The time is right around the corner for rain showers, flowers, warmer weather and… allergies. Yes, the dreaded seasonal allergies. If you’re like many Americans, you may experience the sniffling, watery eyes and sneezes that come with the spring blooms. Though allergens can be present year-round, environmental allergens, like pollen, are more common in spring. Your skin can also become irritated or develop allergies that may lead to contact dermatitis. Keep reading to learn more.  

What is contact dermatitis? 

Generally, contact dermatitis means a skin reaction. It is a type of eczema that causes a red, itchy skin rash. However, it is not contagious and usually not life-threatening. There are two types of contact dermatitis: allergic and irritant.  

Irritant dermatitis 

The most common type of reaction is irritant dermatitis, which occurs after short or prolonged exposure to an irritating substance or friction. This can happen from contact with harsh materials like acid or detergents or from friction caused by things like diaper rash. Another common cause is over-exposure to water from frequent handwashing. Common symptoms include:

Allergic dermatitis 

In contrast, allergic contact dermatitis is an immune reaction. This happens when skin encounters a material or substance that causes an allergic reaction. Poison ivy, latex and nickel are some of the most common allergens. While it usually requires direct contact and only affects the area of contact, it can also be triggered by airborne or ingested allergens. Most commonly, allergic dermatitis presents as:

Contact dermatitis and seasonal allergies 

The most common trigger for allergies is pollen. While contact dermatitis is usually from substances that come in direct contact with the skin, airborne allergens like pollen may trigger dermatitis, too. Because of this allergic contact dermatitis may be more common in the spring and summer months. Many people also suffer from grass allergies, and even minor contact with grass may cause an allergic rash. In addition, as the weather gets warm and more time is spent outdoors, it’s much easier to encounter irritants such as poison ivy or poison oak.  

How do you treat contact dermatitis? 

Sometimes, patients might be able treat mild contact dermatitis with over the counter medications, such as antihistamines or cortisone creams. However, if you are experiencing severe symptoms, you should see a dermatologist. For example, if your rash causes you to lose sleep, doesn’t improve or is on sensitive parts of the body, a dermatologist can evaluate and prescribe medication to treat it. However, you should seek immediate attention if you think you have an infection (particularly if you have a fever), you have trouble or pain when breathing or your eyes are extremely irritated; these are most likely caused by inhaling an irritant or allergen. If you’re having a medical emergency, please call 911.  

If you have persistent skin concerns, it may be time to see your board-certified dermatologist. Loven Dermatology provides comprehensive dermatological care and treatment for patients of all ages. To schedule an appointment today, please call 615.859.7546. 


At Loven Dermatology and Aesthetics, we are passionate about providing patients in Middle Tennessee with the best dermatological care and service possible. We want to help you look and feel your best. That’s why we proudly offer highly advanced and individualized treatment for a range of skin concerns and needs. Please call us at 615.859.7546 for more information or to schedule your appointment. 

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