How can I know if I have contact dermatitis?

If you have a skin rash that won't go away, visit your health care provider. If he or she suspects allergic contact dermatitis, patch testing may be performed. In this test, small samples of chemicals are placed on an area of skin on your back to see if a rash develops. There are no needles or pricking of the skin. These areas of the skin are then evaluated after 48 hours and again at 96 hours or 1 week.

If you are allergic to certain chemicals/products, patch testing can help to identify these allergens and your healthcare provider can effectively treat the rash with therapy and avoidance of the allergens. While patch testing can help address allergic contact dermatitis, there are unfortunately no tests that can be done for irritant contact dermatitis. Tell your healthcare provider about any irritating substances or chemicals that you regularly come into contact with (including cosmetics, lotions, and nail polish). These can be potential culprits of irritant contact dermatitis and avoidance may help to resolve the rash.

With either type of contact dermatitis, you can avoid substances you suspect and see if the rash improves.

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