Contact Allergies Evaluation and Treatment

Contact dermatitis is the term associated with the reaction of the skin to exposure from irritation or allergens. Typically the result is a rash that may take a number of days to develop and then a number of days to recede, assuming the causal allergen has been eliminated.

An example of contact dermatitis is the site reaction, which occurs in 85% of people who are exposed to poison ivy. In more troubling cases, the resulting rash can manifest itself as chronic itching, burning, or blistering, which may take several weeks to resolve.

Common causes of contact dermatitis include:

  • Cosmetics
  • Soaps, shampoos, detergents, conditioners
  • Hair dyes
  • Topical medications
  • Fabrics
  • Plants such as poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak
  • Cleaning products and detergents with a high alkaline nature
  • Chemical solvents such as alcohol, acetone, turpentine, and several others
  • Latex
  • Low humidity resulting from air conditioners
  • Gold, nickel and chromium in jewelry

Without professional care, it is often difficult to ascertain the direct cause, as the resulting rash may take up to 3 days to appear.

Diagnosing and Treating Your Contact Allergies

Patch testing is the best way to diagnose contact dermatitis as this can help to isolate the specific irritant or allergen. Typically a grid, which is about the size of a half sheet of paper is placed on the patient's back for 2-3 days, after which it is removed and read. Initial treatment of CD involves washing the skin. Depending on the severity of the reaction, other medications, both topical and oral are given. Obviously, the best long-term treatment is avoidance of the offending contactant.

Other home remedies include weak acid solutions, such as vinegar or lemon juice to counteract the results of alkaline contact. Over-the-counter medications such as calamine lotion and Benadryl (or other generic diphenhydramines) may reduce itching.

In prolonged or severe cases, it is advisable to schedule an appointment with Dr. Gorby at Westmoreland Allergy and Asthma Associates. He will advise as to the potential source of the irritant, and possibly prescribe prescription strength antihistamines or corticosteroid medications for treatment.

Schedule an Appointment

To schedule an appointment, click here or call today at 724-832-1200.


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