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Illness & Conditions - Definition

Contact Dermatitis

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is inflammation of the skin caused by contact with a substance that causes an allergic reaction. A minor case of contact dermatitis may cause mild redness of the skin or a rash of small red bumps, while a more severe reaction may cause swelling, redness, and larger blisters.

A rash usually starts about 48 hours after exposure to the irritating substance. Common causes of contact dermatitis include:

  • Poisonous plants, such as poison ivy, oak, or sumac.
  • Soaps, detergents, shampoos, perfumes, cosmetics, or lotions.
  • Jewelry or fabrics.
  • New tools, toys, appliances, or other objects.
  • Latex gloves.

The location of the rash may provide a clue about the cause.

Contact dermatitis does not usually occur with the first exposure to the irritating substance (allergen). After a reaction to the substance occurs for the first time, a rash can occur in response to even very small amounts of the substance.

Current as of: March 12, 2014

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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