Living with dermatitis

IMPORTANT: The purpose of this page is to provide information on skin conditions, not to provide medical advice. Content was sourced from Health Direct Australia. Links on this page to other sites on the Internet are provided for the benefit of site users and do not constitute medical advice, an endorsement of any other organisation /company or of their products or treatments.

What is dermatitis?

Dermatitis is a very common itchy red skin rash with a variety of types and causes (some types are also called eczema). It is common for a person with dermatitis to have more than one type, either at the same time, or at different times in their lives. Contact dermatitis arises from a chemical in contact with the skin, which may cause either irritant or allergic dermatitis.

What are the symptoms of dermatitis?

  • Cracked skin
  • Red skin
  • Blistered skin
  • Thickened skin
  • Dry skin

What causes dermatitis?

Closeup of young woman's washing her hands over bright backgroundContact dermatitis occurs when your skin comes into contact with something that causes it to become red and inflamed (known as an inflammatory reaction). There are two different types of contact dermatitis:

  1. Allergic contact dermatitis—this is caused by an allergen and it will continue to cause inflammation of your skin each time you come into contact with it
  2. Irritant contact dermatitis—this is when an irritant causes damage to your skin, resulting in inflammation. It can happen when you are exposed to irritants for long periods of time.

How can the symptoms of dermatitis be relieved?

  • Try to avoid your trigger factor if you know what it is. This is the substance or material that you suspect may be causing your contact dermatitis: for example make-up, skin lotions, jewellery or certain fabrics
  • Clean away any dust and vacuum your carpets regularly and try to make sure that mould and mildew don’t build up.
  • If the trigger factors are unavoidable, you should take steps to protect any exposed skin. Try to wear protective clothing to minimise contact: for example using gloves when washing up or using cleaning products.
  • If you come into contact with your irritants or allergens at work, you should tell your employer so they can help reduce any contact you have with it.
  • Prevent your skin from getting too dry. You may find daily moisturisers (emollient creams) can help. You should put these on after your skin has been wet, such as after washing up, showering or swimming
  • Avoid extreme changes in heat or cold and humidity.
  • Try not to scratch the affected skin and keep your nails short so you do not accidentally scratch yourself and break the skin.
  • Your pharmacist may be able to recommend products that can help with dry, itchy or sore skin.

Further reading for PEOPLE LIVING WITH DERMATITIS

The Australasian College of Dermatologists

The Australasian College of Dermatologists was established in 1966 as the medical college responsible for the training and professional development of medical practitioners in the speciality of dermatology. Visit www.dermcoll.edu.au/atoz/dermatitis/to learn more about dermatitis.

The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy

The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) is the peak professional body of clinical immunology and allergy specialists in Australia and New Zealand. Visit www.allergy.org.au to learn more.