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The skin may develop an allergic reaction when it touches something that you are allergic to or something that irritates it. Dermatitis is an acute or chronic inflammation of the skin with symptoms such as rash, blisters, red patches and itching of the skin.


  • Contact dermatitis - caused by exposure to an irritant that damages the surface layer of skin, called irritant contact dermatitis or to a substance that you are allergic to, called allergic contact dermatitis
  • Atopic dermatitis - this is also known as eczema and is a type of skin inflammation that is common in people with hay fever, asthma or food allergies
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis - the skin is red and scaly but also greasy and contains yellow spots. In babies, this is called cradle cap and it frequently occurs on the scalp in older children and adults
  • Nummular dermatitis - a form of eczema characterised by the coin-shaped areas of inflammation on the skin
  • Statis dermatitis - itchy skin can develop on the limbs, especially around the ankles of older people with circulation problems.

Contact dermatitis

This is a very common form of dermatitis that affects most people at some point in life, usually on the hands. Exposure to an irritant can cause damage to the outer layer of skin resulting in redness, itching and burning. Potential sources of irritants and allergens include

  • Cosmetics, fragrances and perfumes
  • Dye used in clothing, fur and leather products
  • Hair coloring and nail care products
  • Medicines, especially antibiotic creams with neomycin
  • Nickel found in many metal products such as jewelry, zippers, buttons and kitchen utensils
  • Soaps and cleaning products
  • Poison ivy and other plants

Atopic dermatitis

This is another name for eczema. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema, a term used to describe an itchy rash. "Atopic" means a tendency to develop allergy conditions.


The most common symptoms are a red, itchy rash and dry and easy to irritate skin. Scratching or rubbing can make the itching and rash worse and even cause the skin to blister and ooze a clear or light yellow fluid. When this happens, the rash can become infected


You cannot catch atopic dermatitis from someone who has it


Firstly, we’ll look at your rash, ask about your symptoms and ask about you and your parent’s history of asthma and allergies. Then we’ll try to find out the cause of the rash by asking about your contact with things that may irritate your skin, such as soaps, detergents, skin care products and wool clothing. If we think an allergy may have caused your dermatitis, you may be advised to do allergy testing to find out what you may be allergic to

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