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An overview that compares and contrasts the use of medicinal and natural ways to treat contact dermatitis.

Dermatitis is the medical term used to describe common skin ailments, such as eczema, that can cause symptoms such as rashes, itching, blisters, redness, or rough patches over the body. Dermatitis is considered one of the most common skin conditions in people of all genders, ages and ethnicity.

There are actually two different forms of dermatitis that effect people:

Contact dermatitis – which occurs when the skin comes into contact with an agent that causes an allergic reaction (allergic contact dermatitis) or the skin receives an injury in some way (irritant contact dermatitis) and,

Atopic dermatitis – is genetically inherited and symptoms can first appear in infants and last up to adulthood.

Although dermatitis isn’t contagious, it can be extremely uncomfortable or in extreme cases, painful to live with on a daily basis. Generally, not life-threatening, those who suffer from any form of dermatitis are at risk for infection or scarring when the areas affected are covered in blisters. Infection and scarring can also form when the person tends to scratch the affected area to the point of drawing bodily fluids (think pus, blood, etc.) and the area is wet with oozing liquid. Dermatitis can be treated in a variety of ways, from home care to self-care to medicinal care from a licensed dermatologist or a general practitioner.

Medicinal treatments

Severe cases of dermatitis will require the help of a licensed medical professional, whether that is a dermatologist or a general practitioner. Medicinal treatments are the most effective for treating dermatitis but as with all medicine; it is important to consider the side effects and how they can cause other medical issues.

The most common medical treatments that have clinically proven to work, even in the most severe cases of dermatitis are:

  • Topical corticosteroids – generally in the form of a cream or ointment, these are applied directly to the areas affected to soak into the skin and reduce symptoms from the inside out. Will reduce redness, itching, swelling and inflamed sections of the skin.
    • Follow usage instructions, as some stronger forms of topical corticosteroids can cause thinning of the skin after prolonged or frequent use.
  • Steroid tablets – in the most severe cases of dermatitis, steroid tablets that are meant to be taken orally can be prescribed.
    • Follow usage instructions as prolonged use has been linked to a low growth rate in children, brittle bones and high blood pressure.
  • Phototherapy – this practice incorporates UV light into the skin and can be directed to only the areas affected.
    • Ultraviolet radiation has been proven to cause skin cancer and other ailments so tanning beds and sunbathing is not recommended.
Only use products or treatments that have been prescribed directly by the doctor the person affected, as sharing medications can be fatal in some cases due to interactions with other medications.

Natural treatments and self-care

If a person is unsure of using medicinal treatments when it comes to managing their dermatitis, following a particular routine may be enough to reduce symptoms. While natural remedies have a higher success rate in mild to moderate cases, they should definitely be considered when treating dermatitis. Dermatologists have agreed the following can help manage dermatitis:

  • Maintain a skincare routine – wash the face and body with mild soap and warm water during cleansing. Avoid products with a heavy fragrance or additives such as coloring. People have experienced success while using products that contain oatmeal or soothing properties such as Vitamin E.
  • Moisturizer – the use of a moisturizer after cleansing traps moisture into the skin and strengthens natural barriers. Soothing moisturizers can contain natural ingredients such as oatmeal, cocoa butter or Vitamin E oil.
  • Wear protective clothing when possible – use gloves while completing household chores or other cleaning. Choose long sleeves and pants when hiking in the woods or visiting an unknown area.
  • Avoid scratching the affected areas as this can lead to an infection or containments from the hands can enter into the skin, allowing symptoms to worsen.

Avoiding triggers

An important part of living with, and managing, dermatitis is the level of avoidance to potential triggers a person employs to reduce symptoms. The first step is to recognize triggers that can cause outbreaks of redness and rashes that lead to blisters and infected areas. Some common triggers for contact dermatitis include, but are not limited to:

  • Alcohol-based products – products that feature alcohol include makeup and skin products.
  • Bleach and detergents – products with heavy amounts of cleaners can irritate the skin, whether the contact is directly on exposed skin or fabric items (clothes, sheets) that have been washed in harsh detergents.
  • Heavily fragrance products – products that feature a strong scent like perfumes and some makeup.
  • Airborne irritants – particles that are not visible to the naked eye including dust mites, smoke and smog.
  • Proven allergies – determined by an allergy test administered by a medical professional to cause a reaction. For example, dust, smoke, nickel, food, medicine and animal dander.
  • Plants – certain plants that omit any sort of fluid or is covered with removable particles.

Once it has been determined through experience what triggers can cause contact dermatitis, it becomes the persons affected responsibility to avoid them when at all possible. Choose products in the home that are free from added chemicals, fragrances, or industrial strength cleaners.


Dermatitis, while irritating in both the literal and figurative sense, does not have to affect a person’s lifestyle or the way the person affected interacts with others. Using a combination of self-care to avoid triggers and both natural and medicinal (in severe cases) can lessen the symptoms of both contact and atopic dermatitis.

In mild and moderate cases, a proper skin routine followed as directed by a doctor or dermatologist can reduce the symptoms to minor skin irritations that are cleared up within a couple of days. Severe or genetic cases can manage symptoms through a combination of self-care and medicinal care.

Invest in household appliances that can reduce the number of irritants or allergens in the air, such as a central air system or an air purifier. Keep in mind that while these devices do help reduce the intensity of dermatitis; it is not a solution on its own.

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