Dermatitis is generally used to describe a skin inflammation. Most of the time, it involves an itchy rash on skin that is swollen and reddened. Despite this, it occurs in various forms and has multiple different causes.

Skin that is affected by dermatitis might develop a crust, flake off, ooze, or blister. There are several common types of dermatitis including eczema (atopic dermatitis), rashes from poison ivy and certain metals, and dandruff.

Dermatitis is common and not usually contagious or life-threatening. It can, however, make you uncomfortable. You can treat it via simple lifestyle changes or getting a medication from your doctor or your local pharmacy.

Types and Symptoms of Dermatitis

1. Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis includes both irritant and allergic contact dermatitis and usually leads to a red or pink itchy rash.

  •  Allergic contact dermatitis: One of the most common examples of allergic contact dermatitis is poison ivy although other plants can also lead to it, including vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. It may also be caused by skin care products, formaldehyde, rubber, metals, hair dyes, and fragrances. 
  • Irritant contact dermatitis: Irritant contact dermatitis is due to harsh substances aggravating the skin when they repeatedly come in contact with it. A common example of this is skin that is dry and damaged from over-washing. The water would be the irritant in this case as it dries out and damages the skin via overexposure.

2. Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)

Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, leads to itchy skin that has scales, blister, and sometimes swells. It usually runs within families and is triggered by stress, asthma, and allergies. It can also be affected by defects within the skin barrier which let germs in and moisture out.

3. Seborrheic Dermatitis

When it affects infants, seborrheic dermatitis is known as cradle cap and dandruff in adults. It includes scaling that is greasy, reddish, or yellowish on the genitals, face, or scalp. When it occurs on the face, it tends to be close to the eyebrows or the side of the nose. This type of dermatitis can worsen with stress.

4. Nummular Dermatitis

This type of dermatitis includes red plaques that are distinct for their coin-shape. They are more common on the torso, arms, hands, and legs. This type of dermatitis is most common among men with a peak onset age of 55 to 65. It can also be caused by dry climates or frequently taking very hot showers.

5. Stasis Dermatitis

This type of dermatitis is due to poor circulation within the legs and may occur in those with conditions involving chronic leg swelling such as congestive heart failure or varicose veins. The veins within the lower portion of the legs don’t efficiently return blood so blood and fluid builds up, causing swelling. The swelling causes skin irritation, particularly near the ankles.

When to See a Doctor

You should see your doctor in the following situations:

  • You have unsuccessfully tried self-care steps
  • You think your skin may be infected
  • Your skin feels painful
  • You are uncomfortable to the point of distraction from daily routines or losing sleep

Medical Treatments for Dermatitis

Usually a mild skin inflammation will be cured using over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. In order to reduce your inflammation and heal irritation, doctors frequently suggest prescription corticosteroid creams and in some cases they also prescribe oral antihistamines designed to relieve any severe itching. In the case of secondary infections, you might need an additional antibiotic. Severe dermatitis might even need injections or corticosteroid pills.

Other treatments can also be used for treating dermatitis.

Types of Dermatitis


Contact Dermatitis

Avoid triggering chemicals and take medications designed to reduce symptoms such as corticosteroids and antihistamines.

Nummular Dermatitis

Prescription-strength corticosteroid cream or moisturizing lotion is advised for this.

Atopic Dermatitis


Corticosteroid ointments or creams, oral antihistamines, and antibiotics are useful. Sometimes diphenhydramine helps at night. Injected or oral corticosteroids can also reduce inflammation. Immunomodulators may help keep normal skin texture, reducing flares.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Dandruff shampoos can help.

Stasis Dermatitis

Elevate your legs or wear support stockings. Control the underlying condition leading to the swelling also helps.

Home Remedies for Dermatitis

  • Nonprescription anti-itch products are useful: Oral antihistamines (like Benadryl) can help for severe itching. For temporary relief, try over-the-counter calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream.
  • Cool, wet compresses are helpful: Cover the area with dressings to prevent scratching and protect the skin.
  • A comfortably cool bath is good for people who have this disease: Add colloidal oatmeal, uncooked oatmeal, or baking soda for additional relief.
  • Cotton clothing is a good choice: It won’t irritate your affected skin.
  • Mild laundry detergent is recommended: Avoid fabric softeners and use unscented laundry products as your clothing and sheets will touch your skin.
  • Scratching is forbidden: Trim your nails and put on gloves at night. Cover the area if you still scratch.
  • Wash irritants off: When caused by an irritant, treatment also involves washing using a lot of water to remove traces of this irritant. Avoid exposure to it in the future. Sometimes the best treatment will be to let the area heal naturally.

Prevention for Dermatitis

Certain types of dermatitis are simpler to prevent. Irritant and allergic contact dermatitis, for example, both involve preventing your skin from coming into contact with the irritant again. When you do come into contact, wash your exposed skin right away. Most of the other dermatitis types occur in those with sensitive skin so you must avoid the irritant.

If you are concerned about your risk of dermatitis, do the following:

  • Keep your skin from drying out by using a humidifier both at home and work.
  • Wear clothing that is made from natural fibers and loose-fitting.
  • Opt for 14-karat gold or surgical steel earring posts instead of plated jewelry.
  • Never wear a watchband for a long time as the sweat buildup and friction may lead to rashes.
  • Take baths or showers that are warm, not hot and opt for mild soap.
  • Use an unscented cream or lotion to lubricate your skin after bathing and during the day.

If you would like to learn more about dermatitis, watch this video: