Dermatitis is a broad term that simply means a skin irritation that can show up in many different forms. If your doctor tells you that you have dermatitis, you should find out what exactly is causing it, what kind you have, and how to treat it.

Dermatitis is not a contagious condition but it can be a very uncomfortable condition and can affect your appearance and self-esteem, especially if the condition is on your face or other visible areas of your skin.

Symptoms of Dermatitis

The symptoms of dermatitis depend on the type of dermatitis and where it is on your body. It can appear as fluid-filled bumps that become dry and crusty when they burst or be a patch of dry, flaky skin.

What is Atopic Dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema, is often discovered in young children although it may appear in adults as well. According to the National Eczema Association, while there are different types of eczema, atopic dermatitis is the most common. Eczema caused by atopic dermatitis usually features dry skin bumps and/or itchy red patches. Atopic dermatitis can appear all over the body and according to the Mayo Clinic, it could be accompanied by hay fever or asthma. Scratching at dry itchy skin can lead a child or adult to get stuck in an itch scratch cycle that disrupts the skin barrier, causing bumps to leak and become crusty.

Atopic dermatitis hand eczema is common with people that work in industries using salon, cleaning, mechanical, or other chemicals, causing the affected skin to become red and even blistered. If the hand eczema is not provided proper skin care, it could lead to a skin infection, causing additional pain and potentially requiring a physician to provide medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.

What Triggers Atopic Dermatitis Eczema?

The American Academy of Dermatology says that eczema triggers can be hard to detect, particularly if the condition goes away for long periods of time and then suddenly reappears. Everyone has different triggers that irritate the skin and for some, it can be a particular time of the year or changes in hormones. Typical triggers include:

  • Skin irritants such as soaps, detergents, certain fabric
  • Stress
  • Food Allergies to certain foods like egg, wheat, soy, gluten, etc.
  • Pet dander
  • Allergies
  • Hay Fever
  • Pollen
  • Perfume or fragrances
  • Low humidity in the air

Individuals with eczema often learn what triggers their flare ups and know that avoiding the irritants as much as possible may help reduce flare ups. It is suggested by some that soaking in a warm water bleach bath for 10 minutes may kill bacteria and reduce the likelihood of skin infections, thereby reducing the length and severity of an atopic dermatitis episode. Consult with a physician before trying this method, especially with children. Other atopic dermatitis treatments may include topical steroids to reduce inflammation and scratching, or topical or oral antibiotics to reduce the skin infections that this dermatitis may cause. Use great care when touching or cleaning red itchy areas and always gently pat dry rather than rub the skin dry, which can exacerbate atopic dermatitis.

The Mayo Clinic says that eczema may be a lifelong problem that comes and goes for reasons known or unknown, making management of atopic dermatitis sometimes challenging. Seeking medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment along with knowledge of your health information and triggers, will often help children and adults minimize atopic dermatitis eczema breakouts or reduce their symptoms.

What is Contact Dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction to a substance, plant, or other allergen. When your skin comes in contact with the allergen, a rash or blisters may appear suddenly or within a few hours. This rash is normally itchy and can typically clear up without intervention.

Like eczema, there can be many things that trigger contact dermatitis. Unlike eczema that tends to be a lifelong condition that has to be watched, it is an acute condition caused directly by your environment. For example, poison ivy is a common allergan, and touching it leads to a break out with a lot of uncomfortable itching.

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is often found in babies and is known as cradle cap. If the condition continues into adulthood, scaly red skin patches and dandruff may become present on the face, upper body, and scalp. With seborrheic dermatitis, this condition has scaly spots which may appear to be dry skin but is actually sometimes oily.

The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is a mystery. However, doctors believe that it may be the result of a fungus in the oil that is secreted on the skin or the body’s response to something irregular in the immune system. This type of dermatitis is often seen in weakened immune systems, people with neurological conditions, and patients on certain medications. Like eczema, this skin condition may have periods when the skin may clear up only to have it reappear later.

Treatment of Dermatitis

Treating dermatitis depends on what type you have. Some skin rashes do not require a doctor and will go away untreated. Others, need to be treated with antibiotics and steroids. If you have any of the following symptoms, see your doctor for treatment.

  • A skin rash or scaly patches that are painful
  • Excessive scratching due to severely itching areas
  • Blisters that ooze, appear infected, or won’t heal
  • If home remedies are not providing relief
  • It is spreading to other body parts

A qualified specialist can do tests to determine what is causing the dermatitis and treat it based on results. Treatment may change over the course of your therapy but common treatments include:

  • Cortisone and hydrocortisone creams and ointments
  • Antibiotics and antifungals
  • Oral corticosteroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Phototherapy

Preventing Dermatitis

You can’t prevent every breakout of dermatitis, but there are steps you can take to minimize your risk:

  • Use unscented, dye-free soaps and laundry detergents
  • Take shorter baths and showers and use warm but not hot water
  • Use unscented moisturizers
  • Wear protective clothing outside, especially in wooded or highly vegetated areas
  • Practice stress-reducing exercises such as yoga or meditation.
  • Identify and avoid triggers: Knowing your family history regarding triggers may help identify what your trigger is; or seeing a specialist who can test for a longer list of potential suspects may also help. There is always the risk of unknown irritants that cause a flareup or rash.

Can Dermatitis Be Cured?

Currently, there is no cure for dermatitis. People who have atopic dermatitis or any of the other types of dermatitis would benefit from learning what causes their breakouts and work to avoid those triggers if possible. Wearing protective clothing, washing your skin, and using barrier repair lotions are also great preventative measures.


Dermatitis can affect anyone, from babies to the elderly. If you have a skin rash or blisters, your doctor will work with you to determine what you have and what the best treatment options are for you. Once you understand what is causing it, you can work to prevent breakouts as much as possible. Monitoring your skin during bathing will help you know when there are changes that need to be addressed.

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