• Rashes (also known as dermatitis or eczema) have many causes, including allergic reactions, friction, prolonged exposure to heat and moisture, or contact with irritants, such as harsh chemicals.
  • See your dermatologist for the successful diagnosis and treatment of eczema.

Allergic contact dermatitis

  • The itching and blistering of allergic contact dermatitis can occur after contact with an allergen, a substance that causes an allergic reaction. These reactions typically appear within a few days of exposure.
  • Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are the most common causes of allergic reactions in the United States. Each year, millions of Americans will be affected by contact with these poisonous plants.
  • Other common causes of allergic contact dermatitis include metals (such as nickel), rubber, dyes, cosmetics, preservatives and fragrances.
  • Treatment to relieve symptoms includes identification and removal of potential allergens to prevent future reactions. Corticosteroids and topical immunomodulators (tacrolimus or pimecrolimus) may be prescribed to reduce symptoms. Additional treatment options are available for recurrent/persistent forms of allergic contact dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis

  • Atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema, is frequently described as “the itch that rashes.” It is characterized by patches of dry, red skin that may have scales and/or crust. Often, there is intense itchiness, accompanied by the desire to scratch.
  • Eczema usually occurs on the face, neck, and the insides of the elbows, knees and ankles.
  • Approximately 10 to 20 percent of children age 10 and younger in the United States develop atopic dermatitis, as do 1 to 3 percent of adults across the world.1-3 In the United States alone, atopic dermatitis affects at least 28 million people of all ages.4
  • An estimated 60 percent of people with this condition develop it in their first year of life, and 90 percent develop it before age 5.5 However, atopic dermatitis can begin during puberty or later.
  • While there is no cure for atopic dermatitis, most cases can be controlled with proper treatment. The goals of treatment are to keep the skin moist, reduce inflammation and the risk of infection, and minimize the itch associated with the rash.
  • Effective treatment often requires a multifaceted approach that includes medication, proper skin care, trigger avoidance and coping mechanisms.
  • Treatment to relieve symptoms may include:
    • Moisturizers to help relieve dry skin.
    • Cold compresses applied directly to the skin to help relieve the itch.
    • Corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation.
    • Topical calcineurin inhibitors to help reduce inflammation.
    • Short-term, intermittent use of sedative antihistamines to help the patient get a good night’s sleep.
    • Non-sedating antihistamines during the day, if needed.
    • Phototherapy or immune-suppressing oral medications to help relieve moderate to severe cases that do not respond to other therapies.

1 Kay J, Gawkrodger DJ, Mortimer MJ, Jaron AG. The prevalence of childhood atopic eczema in a general population. J Am Acad Dermatol 1994;30:35-9.

2 Perkin MR, Strachan DP, Williams HC, Kennedy CT, Golding J,Team AS. Natural history of atopic dermatitis and its relationship to serum total immunoglobulin E in a population-based birth cohort study. Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2004;15:221-9.

3 Eichenfield L, Ellis, CN, Mancini AJ, et al. Atopic Dermatitis: Epidemiology and Pathogenesis Update. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2012 Sep;31(3 Suppl):S3-5. doi: 10.1016/j.sder.2012.07.002.

4 Adelaide HA. Review of Pimecrolimus Cream 1% for the Treatment of Mild to Moderate Atopic Dermatitis. Clinical Therapeutics. 2006; 28(12):1972-1982.

5 Beltrani VS, Boguneiwicz M. Atopic dermatitis. Dermatol Online J 2003;9(2):1.