How is contact dermatitis managed or treated?

Treatment for both types of contact dermatitis is the same. Even with treatment, it can take several weeks for the rash to go away. Treatments include:

  • Avoidance: If you can figure out what’s causing the rash, take steps to avoid it or minimize exposure.
  • Anti-itch creams: Corticosteroid creams can ease inflammation and itching.
  • Oral steroids: Prednisone, a type of steroid, can relieve rash symptoms that don’t respond to antihistamines or other treatments.
  • Immunosuppressive medications: In severe cases, where repeated bouts of oral steroids are needed.

What are the complications of contact dermatitis?

Allergic contact dermatitis is a Type IV hypersensitivity reaction, caused by a different immunologic mechanism than hives, angioedema, or anaphylaxis. However, very rarely, patients may have immunologic dysfunction which results in multiple types of concurrent hypersensitivity reactions. Thus, it is possible that people with contact dermatitis can develop hives (urticaria) and swelling (angioedema) after coming into contact with an allergen. Hives are red, raised, itchy skin welts. Angioedema is swelling deep under the skin.

Extremely rare, allergic contact dermatitis can overlap with a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis that can swell airways and close them. If you think you are experiencing anaphylaxis, call 911. You’ll need an immediate epinephrine injection to counteract this allergic response. People with known allergies can carry an EpiPen®, a brand of injectable epinephrine.

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