Atopic Dermatitis

What is it?

Atopic dermatitis is a common chronic skin disease. Atopic is a term used to describe allergic conditions such as asthma and hay fever. Both dermatitis and eczema mean inflammation of the skin.

People with atopic dermatitis tend to have dry, itchy and easily irritated skin. They may have times when their skin is clear and other times when they have a rash.

Atopic dermatitis usually begins and ends during childhood, but some people continue to have the disease into adulthood. If you ever had atopic dermatitis, you may have trouble with one or more of these:

  • Dry, sensitive skin
  • Hand dermatitis
  • Skin infections

The disease can have a significant impact on the quality of life of individuals and their families. The itching can interfere with daily activities and make it hard to sleep. Scratching the rash can irritate the skin, making it itch even more, which, in turn, increases the tendency to scratch.

This itch-scratch cycle can leave the skin open to infections. Sometimes environmental and/or food allergies can trigger atopic dermatitis and sometimes it is independent of allergic triggers.

If you or your child have atopic dermatitis, that is not well controlled, then considering making an appointment at the Center for Allergy & Immunology for further evaluation.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a physiological reaction that occurs after skin comes in contact with certain substances. Irritants to the skin cause the vast majority (80 percent) of these reactions. The remaining 20 percent of reactions are caused by allergens, which trigger an allergic response.

Adults are affected by allergic contact dermatitis more than young children or the elderly.

The most common causes of irritants include the following:

  • Chemicals
    • Soaps
    • Lotions
    • Detergents
    • Latex
      • Some people have an allergy or sensitivity to latex (rubber). Reactions can be seen when products made from latex come in contact with the child's skin. Latex is found in products made with natural rubber latex, such as rubber toys, balloons, bells, rubber gloves, and pacifiers or nipples.
  • Perfumes
  • Plants
    • Poison Ivy
      • This plant family also includes poison oak and sumac, which, are common causes of contact dermatitis reactions.
  • 3 Most Common Metals
    • Nickel
      • Nickel is found in costume jewelry, belt buckles, and wristwatches, as well as zippers, snaps, and hooks on clothing.
      • Chrome - Contact with objects that are chrome-plated, which contain nickel, may also cause skin reactions in children who are sensitive to nickel.
    • Mercury - Found in contact lens solutions, may cause problems for some children.
  • Cosmetics
  • Medications
    • Neomycin, which is found in antibiotic creams, is a common cause of medication contact dermatitis.

    • Local anesthetics, such as novocaine or paraben, are other possible causes.


Nearly 3,000 chemical agents are capable of causing allergic contact dermatitis.


Many types of cosmetics can cause allergic contact dermatitis. Permanent hair dye that contains paraphenylenediamine is the most common cause. Other products that may cause problems include dyes used in clothing, perfumes, eye shadow, nail polish, lipstick, and some sunscreens.

What are the symptoms of contact dermatitis?

The following are some of the other symptoms associated with contact dermatitis. However, each person may experience symptoms differently.

Symptoms may include:
  • mild redness and swelling of the skin
  • blistering of the skin
  • itching
  • scaling
  • temporary thickening of skin
The most severe reactions usually occur at the contact site. The symptoms of contact dermatitis may resemble other skin conditions.

If you know what you are allergic to you can try to avoid it, and you do not need any tests. However, some people develop persistent dermatitis and the cause is not clear. Many different chemicals which occur in metals, cosmetics, creams, leather, rubber, and other material may be responsible. Patch testing may help to identify the exact cause. It is not a foolproof test to find every cause of dermatitis, but often helps.