Contact Dermatitis Treatments

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on July 10, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on July 10, 2014

Contact Dermatitis Treatments

Contact dermatitis can be an unpleasant condition. It is both uncomfortable and unsightly. Luckily, it is usually not difficult to treat. The first thing is to avoid contact with the irritant or allergen that triggers your dermatitis. This will allow your skin to heal and prevent future flare-ups.

If you know that you have contacted something that causes you to have dermatitis, wash the skin with large amounts of soap and water. Even washing the skin within 15 minutes of exposure to poison ivy can prevent the rash from developing.

In some cases, doing nothing to the area is the best thing. This can prevent further inflammation and spreading of the allergen across the skin.

Home Treatments

If you already have a rash, the following home treatments might be helpful.

Cool compresses

Apply a cool, damp cloth to the affected area. This can help control inflammation and itching. Soaking the cloth in saline or Burow’s solution (solution of aluminum acetate) can offer additional relief.

Over-the-counter (OTC) ointments or lotions

Anti-itch creams that contain aloe or calendula, natural ingredients that are anti-inflammatory agents, can ease itchiness and control inflammation. Some popular OTC brands include Aveeno, Cortizone-10, Lanacane, Gold Bond, and Caladryl.

Antihistamines         

If you have allergic contact dermatitis, OTC antihistamines, such as Benadryl or store-brand allergy medication, might help.

Lukewarm baths

Baths with uncooked oatmeal or medicated solutions (for example adding baking soda to the water) are also recommended, especially for children.

Medications

If your contact dermatitis is severe, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroid skin creams or ointments to reduce inflammation. Steroid creams are very common for people with skin conditions and are often available in low-dose, over-the-counter strengths. It’s important to follow the directions because misuse can lead to more serious skin conditions.

In the most severe cases of skin allergy, prescription-strength corticosteroid creams or ointments can be applied to the skin to reduce inflammation. For widespread or severe allergic reactions, oral or injected corticosteroids may be prescribed. They are generally used for less than two weeks and then tapered off.

Along with, or instead of, corticosteroids, your doctor may prescribetacrolimus ointment(Protopic) or pimecrolimus cream (Elidel) to treat symptoms such as redness, scaling, and itching.

If your rash has become infected, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend not treating the area.

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