When you develop an itch all over, ask yourself “Are your clothes giving you a skin rash?” Skin rashes from exposure to chemicals, metals or fabrics are a common cause for contact dermatitis. Dermatologists distinguish between allergic and irritant dermatitis. With allergic dermatitis it is the immune system that reacts to something from the environment. With an irritant contact dermatitis like poison ivy it is a chemical that causes the skin reaction. The key in both forms is identification of the offending agent and avoidance of whatever causes the skin rash.
Symptoms of contact dermatitis
It usually starts with an itch and redness of the skin, typically just one or two patches. Things get worse and the rash spreads further until it can be all over the body. You may notice itchy bumps where the skin is thickened. Eventually blisters can develop. Other areas are dry and scaly. Ice may lessen the itch.
Search for the cause of contact dermatitis
You may need to be a bit of a Sherlock Holmes to find out the cause of your itch. Anything that touches your skin now or has touched your skin in the past 2 to 3 days could be the cause of the rash. If the rash is around the breasts and you are a woman, think that it may have been the type of bra you wore. If the rash is on your hands, think of gloves, or perhaps you used a new hand cream containing an irritant. Ask yourself: “Are your clothes giving you a skin rash?” Causes can be seemingly bizarre: it can be a new shirt or new shoes, and the material may contain a substance that is a skin irritant.
A common cause for skin rashes is an allergy to nickel. Nickel is often part of the metal in cheap fashion jewelry. But nickel is also contained in belt buckles, wristbands, and earrings. Add to this list chemical irritants like fabric softeners, laundry detergent and soaps. Plant chemicals like poison ivy and poison oak are other examples for chemical irritants. Whenever you develop an extensive skin rash, seek the advice of a dermatologist to get the proper treatment.
Contact dermatitis is common. But often it is difficult to identify an irritant or allergen. If you cannot identify the cause, ask for a referral to a dermatologist. Many physicians will just prescribe a corticosteroid cream for the inflammation. However, this gives only temporary relief. You have to identify the offending agent and remove it from your skin. Otherwise the skin rash gets worse and is more difficult to treat. It may be nickel, or a laundry detergent that brings on the rash. Once you identify the cause, the rash needs to calm down and heal, which takes between 1 and 3 weeks. It is not good enough to apply skin creams and hope for improvement. The only lasting help is avoidance of the offending substance. Remember what it was, and avoid it for the rest of your life!
More info about skin rashes: http://nethealthbook.com/dermatology-skin-disease/skin-rash/