Contact dermatitis (CD) is usually a localized rash that clears up in two to three weeks. However, sometimes it can be persistent or severe, and occasionally can become widespread. In rare cases, it can lead to other complications.

When the itching and irritation of contact dermatitis are severe and persistent, the following complications may arise:

Infection

Skin that is moist from oozing or open from irritation or scratching is susceptible to infection from bacteria and fungi. The most common types of infection are staphylococcus and streptococcus. These can lead to a condition called impetigo. This is a highly contagious skin infection. Most infections can be treated with antibiotics or antifungal medication.

Neurodermatitis

Scratching can make your skin even itchier. This can lead to chronic scratching and scaling. As a result, the skin may become thick, discolored, and leathery. Treatments include corticosteroid creams, anti-itch medications, and anti-anxiety drugs.

Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin. It’s most often caused by streptococcus or staphylococcus bacteria. The symptoms of cellulitis include fever, redness, and pain in the affected area. Other symptoms include red streaks in the skin, chills, and aches. If you have a weakened immune system, cellulitis can be life-threatening. Be sure to call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Your doctor will usually prescribe oral antibiotics to treat cellulitis.

Diminished quality of life

If contact dermatitis symptoms are severe, persistent, or cause scarring, they can affect your quality of life. For example, they may make it difficult for you to do your job. You may also feel embarrassed about the appearance of your skin. If this is the case, you should talk to your doctor about how to manage your symptoms more effectively.

Contact dermatitis symptoms usually go away in two to three weeks. If you continue to contact the allergen or irritant, your symptoms will most likely return. As long as you avoid contact with the allergen or irritant, you will probably have no symptoms. However, there may be more than one allergen or irritant that causes your rash. If you have photoallergic CD, sun exposure may cause flares for many years. Staying out of the sun can help you avoid this.

If you have severe or persistent symptoms, the condition may become chronic. Early treatment of symptoms to stop the itching and scratching will help to avoid this. Antibiotics can usually treat infections. Even cellulitis usually goes away with 7 to 10 days of antibiotic use.