Whether cases of contact dermatitis are caused by skin irritation or allergic reaction, home remedies will help clear them up fast. Contact dermatitis occurs when people touch a harsh substance, such as bleach, repeatedly or when they touch something to which they are allergic, such as some plants, chemicals or metal jewelry. An itchy, painful red rash results that can interfere with sleep and waking activities. While skin symptoms will fade on their own in a few weeks, home treatment can banish them much sooner.
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Contact dermatitis will not go away if patients continue to expose themselves to the irritant or allergen. Determining the source of irritation or allergic reaction must come first, followed by steps to remove the substance from the patients' environments. The University of Maryland (UM) Medical Center advises washing the point of skin contact well with mild soap and water, rinsing off all the soap. If done within an hour of contact, this may prevent symptoms entirely. Clothes, bedding or anything else the patients may have contaminated should also be laundered immediately.
When the body suffers irritant exposure or an allergic reaction, cells release histamines that cause skin inflammation. Topical and oral medications address the symptoms of contact dermatitis such as redness, itching and weeping sores. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends topical hydrocortisone creams to soothe inflammatory heat and itching. Calamine lotion addresses these symptoms as well as providing a drying action for blisters that ooze fluid. Home treatment for severe itching may include taking oral antihistamines such as diphenhydramine, which does not need a prescription.
Itching may persist when medications wear off in between doses. Symptoms of allergic reactions may be stronger than those associated with irritant contact dermatitis. For additional relief of discomfort, patients can take cool showers or therapeutic baths. The Mayo Clinic suggests soaking in a tub of cool water prepared with a sprinkling of baking soda or colloidal oatmeal. This finely ground oatmeal is interchangeable with baby oatmeal and can be found in commercial oatmeal bath products. In between other home treatments, covering the skin rash with cool, wet gauze bandages will soothe and protect the area.
The UM Medical Center points out that sometimes leaving the affected skin alone is the best home treatment. Touching the rash with contaminated fingers can spread more irritating particles. Scratching the skin can also cause ruptures that lead to infection. Patients who tend to scratch subconsciously can wear soft, cotton gloves, which effectively prevent scratching while sleeping.