Contact dermatitis is a red, itchy rash caused by a reaction to a chemical substance that came in contact with your skin. It is not contagious. For some people, the reaction is localized, for example earlobe dermatitis from cheap metal jewelry, and for others it is widespread and debilitating.
There’s a wide range of substances that can cause this reaction– from poison ivy and similar plants, to metals, to ingredients in our personal hygiene products. The allergen chemicals are listed in order from highest to lowest frequency in the ‘I am allergic to’ section under patient education tab. It is important to note that the one thing that holds true for all persons with allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) is that to put the rash into remission, there needs to be avoidance of the chemical substance.
For some, the rash can come and go. The underlying mechanism (immunological-science) is complicated, but it basically boils down to the fact that the more your immune system ‘sees’ the chemical, the more it remembers it. If you wear nickel earrings, a nickel-backed watch, and constantly handle nickel keys, you have three exposures to one basic chemical, nickel. Each time your immune system ‘sees’ the chemical, it can recognize the chemical quicker the next time, your immune system remembers it more. Eventually, people can react to very little chemical stimulation because they have a great memory of it, and sometimes the reactions can be all over the body. In strongly sensitized persons, even food can cause them to react! For example very sensitive people with nickel allergy might react to foods high in nickel (such as chocolate, oats, and legumes (like beans and peanuts).
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