If the offending substance is promptly identified and avoided, the chances of a rapid and complete recovery are excellent. Otherwise, symptom management—not cure—is the best doctors can offer. Sensitivity to allergens is typically lifelong. For a few people, contact dermatitis becomes a chronic and disabling condition that can have a profound effect on quality of life.
Avoidance or substitution of known or suspected allergens or irritating substances is the best prevention. If avoidance is difficult, barrier creams and protective clothing can be tried. Skin that comes in contact with an offending substance should be thoroughly washed as soon as possible.
Parents should be concerned primarily with identifying the cause(s) of a child or adolescent's contact dermatitis, as treatment is often ineffective until the offending substance can be removed or avoided. Most cases of contact dermatitis are mild and can be treated without disrupting the child's school routine or severely affecting his or her quality of life. In some cases, parents may find it helpful to consult a dermatologist to identify the specific causes and to suggest products that can be substituted for those that are causing the skin reactions.
Antibiotics—Drugs that are designed to kill or inhibit the growth of the bacteria that cause infections.
Corticosteroids—A group of hormones produced naturally by the adrenal gland or manufactured synthetically. They are often used to treat inflammation. Examples include cortisone and prednisone.
Immune response—A physiological response of the body controlled by the immune system that involves the production of antibodies to fight off specific foreign substances or agents (antigens).
Lipids—Organic compounds not soluble in water, but soluble in fat solvents such as alcohol. Lipids are stored in the body as energy reserves and are also important components of cell membranes. Commonly known as fats.
Topical—Not ingested; applied to the outside of the body, for example to the skin, eye, or mouth.