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Nonspecific Dermatitis

Dermatitis is a skin rash caused by something that touches the skin and makes it irritated and inflamed.  Your skin may be red, swollen, dry, and may be cracked. Blisters may form and ooze. The rash will itch.

Dermatitis can form on the face and neck, backs of hands, forearms, genitals, and lower legs. Dermatitis is not passed from person to person.

Talk with your health care provider about what may have caused the rash. Common things that cause skin allergies are metal in jewelry, plants like poison ivy or poison oak, and certain skin care products. You will need to avoid the source of your rash in the future to prevent it from coming back. In some cases, the cause of the dermatitis may not be found.

Treatment is done to relieve itching and prevent the rash from coming back. The rash should go away in a few days to a few weeks.

Home care

The health care provider may prescribe medications to relieve swelling and itching. Follow all instructions when using these medications.

  • Avoid anything that heats up your skin, such as hot showers or baths, or direct sunlight. This can make itching worse.

  • Stay away from whatever you think caused the rash.

  • Bathe in warm, not hot, water. Apply a moisturizing lotion after bathing to prevent dry skin.

  • Avoid skin irritants such as wool or silk clothing, grease, oils, harsh soaps, and detergents.

  • Apply cold compresses to soothe your sores to help relieve your symptoms. Do this for 30 minutes 3 to 4 times a day. You can make a cold compress by soaking a cloth in cold water. Squeeze out excess water. You can add colloidal oatmeal to the water to help reduce itching. For severe itching in a small area, apply an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel. Do this for 20 minutes 3 to 4 times a day.

  • You can also help relieve large areas of itching by taking a lukewarm bath with colloidal oatmeal added to the water.

  • Use hydrocortisone cream for redness and irritation, unless another medicine was prescribed. You can also use benzocaine anesthetic cream or spray.

  • Use oral diphenhydramine to help reduce itching. This is an antihistamine you can buy at drug and grocery stores. It can make you sleepy, so use lower doses during the daytime. Or you can use loratadine. This is an antihistamine that will not make you sleepy. Don’t use diphenhydramine if you have glaucoma or have trouble urinating because of an enlarged prostate.

  • Wash your hands or use an antibacterial gel often to prevent the spread of the rash.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your health care provider. Make an appointment with your health care provider if your symptoms do not get better in the next 1 to 2 weeks.

When to seek medical advice

Call your health care provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Spreading of the rash to other parts of your body

  • Severe swelling of your face, eyelids, mouth, throat or tongue

  • Trouble urinating due to swelling in the genital area

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Redness or swelling that gets worse

  • Pain that gets worse

  • Foul-smelling fluid leaking from the skin

  • Yellow-brown crusts on the open blisters

  • Joint pain 


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