Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Questions & Related Topics

Possible Symptoms for Dermatitis

Symptoms of dermatitis may include:[1]

  • Severe itching
  • Burning or stinging
  • Red or rashy skin
  • Scaly patches of skin
  • Blisters or fluid leaking from rash
  • Dandruff

There are several different types of dermatitis. Each one affects different parts of your body. You may notice symptoms on your face, scalp, knees, elbows, arms, legs, chest, and/or back.[1]

    Top 3 Dermatitis Causes

    1. Atopic dermatitis (eczema)

    This type of dermatitis is usually triggered by an allergic reaction. It can also be caused by problems with your immune system or autoimmune conditions. Eczema often develops during childhood, but outbreaks can continue through adulthood.[1]

    People with eczema might also develop symptoms after having contact with certain substances. Foods, soaps, perfumes, and pollen can all be potential triggers. People with autoimmune conditions are at especially high risk for eczema. Eczema is also sometimes triggered by stress.

    2. Contact dermatitis

    This type of dermatitis is often caused by an allergic response or contact with an abrasive or poisonous substance. As the name implies, contact dermatitis is caused by direct contact with certain materials. Common triggers include poison ivy, poison oak, undiluted essential oils, and household cleaners.[1]

    People with contact dermatitis may develop blisters or a painful, burning rash. In some cases, they might need urgent medical care. However, many cases of contact dermatitis are mild and resolve on their own.

    3. Seborrheic dermatitis

    This type of dermatitis mainly affects your scalp, but it can also affect other oily areas of your body, including your face and chest. Seborrheic dermatitis is common in babies and young children. It often presents with a greasy or scaly rash.[1]

    Seborrheic dermatitis can be triggered by cold, dry weather, stress, or a chronic health condition. Unlike other forms of dermatitis, it doesn't seem to be linked to an allergic reaction.[2]

    5 Ways to Prevent Dermatitis

    1. Use protective gloves

    Many people develop dermatitis after using harsh chemicals.[3] If you often use bleach, pesticides, or other toxic substances, make sure that these chemicals don't make contact with your skin. If contact does occur, flush the area with clean water right away.

    2. Avoid poison ivy and poison oak

    When spending time outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Covering exposed skin can help you avoid contact with plants that may cause a rash. Don't handle unfamiliar plants. If you must touch an unfamiliar plant, wear gloves and wash your hands afterward.[3]

    3. Use mild soaps, cleansers, and detergents

    If you have a history of dermatitis, choose personal care products designed for people with sensitive skin. Your physician, pharmacist, or dermatologist can recommend the best products for you. Avoid products with a strong scent or artificial dyes.[1]

    4. Bathe or shower in lukewarm water

    Hot water strips moisture from your skin. Over time, dry skin can make you more vulnerable to dermatitis outbreaks. Use cool or lukewarm water when bathing, and limit baths and showers to 10 minutes. Afterward, dry yourself thoroughly and apply lotion to seal in moisture.[1]

    5. Use a humidifier

    If you live in a dry climate, your skin may suffer from a lack of moisture. A humidifier can help keep your skin hydrated and prevent dermatitis outbreaks.

    Possible Dermatitis Treatment Options

    1. Moisturizers and creams

    Many cases of dermatitis can be resolved with over-the-counter treatments. Your doctor may suggest using hydrocortisone cream to relieve itching and redness. Moisturizers can also help soothe rough or dry skin.[4] Some over-the-counter creams can also clear up rashes caused by poison ivy or other toxic substances. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for help choosing the best product for this purpose.

    2. Allergy medications

    If your dermatitis outbreaks are linked to allergic reactions, antihistamines may help.[3] Some allergy medications are available over the counter, but others may require a doctor's prescription. If you have severe allergies, your family physician may suggest that you visit an allergist, which is a doctor who specializes in treating allergic reactions. He or she can run tests to find out what substances you're allergic to.

    3. Steroid pills, creams, and injections

    If your dermatitis doesn't respond to over-the-counter remedies, you may need prescription steroids. These medications help control the immune system reaction that triggers your rash and itching.[3] However, steroid medications carry some risks and may not be safe for everyone. Your doctor can help you decide if steroids are right for you.

    Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Dermatitis Treatment:

    • How long have you been experiencing dermatitis symptoms?
    • What makes your symptoms better or worse?
    • Do you have seasonal allergies?
    • Are you allergic to any foods?
    • What household products and personal care products do you use?
    • Have you recently been in contact with any poisonous plants?

    Dermatitis May Also Be Known as

    • Atopic dermatitis
    • Contact dermatitis
    • Seborrheic dermatitis
    • Eczema


    1. Mayo Clinic. Dermatitis: Symptoms & causes.
    2. American Academy of Dermatology. Seborrheic dermatitis.
    3. Cleveland Clinic. Dermatitis.
    4. Mayo Clinic. Dermatitis: Diagnosis & treatment.

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