Contact dermatitis, also known as contact eczema, is a red and itchy skin rash caused by the skin coming into contact with an irritating substance (irritant contact dermatitis) or one that causes an allergic reaction to it (allergic contact dermatitis). Typically the rash and skin irritation is only present in places that came into direct contact with the substance.

Contact dermatitis is not contagious, nor is it usually life threatening. In some cases, if it is left untreated, the skin can become so irritated that it breaks or cracks and leads to a more serious condition, like an infection.

Irritant contact dermatitis is caused by the skin coming into contact with a substance that is poisonous, too alkaline or acidic, or simply dangerous to the skin. Some example of substances that cause irritant contact dermatitis include:

  • Bleach or other detergent
  • Shampoo
  • Plants 
  • Solvents
  • Rubbing alcohol

Some irritants are strong and will result in a reaction no matter how much contact the skin has with them. Others will only cause a reaction after repeated exposure. Some people also have stronger reactions than others. For example, one person may have a reaction to a particular laundry detergent that does not cause any irritation to another person. 

Allergic contact dermatitis is a person’s own immune response to a substance that is an allergen to them. The same substance will not cause a reaction in a person who is not allergic to it. Some common allergens that cause allergic contact dermatitis include:

  • Airborne substances, such as pollen and insecticides
  • Personal care products, like shampoo, body wash, deodorant, or nail polish
  • Medications 
  • Sunscreen 

Can I Recover Damages for Contact Dermatitis?

There might be a claim for contact dermatitis if it was a work-related injury and the employer’s negligence caused the injury to the employee. The condition may also be known as “occupational dermatitis” or “industrial dermatitis.” If the employee can prove the elements of a negligence claim they might be able to recover damages. They must show that their employer owed them a duty to protect them from injuries like contact dermatitis, the employer breached that duty in some way, and the employee was injured. 

An example of this is an employer who does not provide the appropriate safety gear to protect their employees from coming into contact with harmful irritants, or who knowingly allows their employees to handle harmful substances for long periods of time might be negligent. 

In other situations an employer might require an employee to handle substances that they know the employee is allergic to. In that case, the employee might have a claim for damages caused by allergic contact dermatitis. 

Contact dermatitis might also be a tort claim known as products liability. In that case a plaintiff or victim alleges that the product that caused the contact dermatitis was defective in some way. For example, a detergent failed to list all of the ingredients, leading a consumer to believe it did not contain a particular allergen or irritating substance. 

Damages might include medical expenses, lost wages, compensation for allergy testing or hospital bills, and pain and suffering.

Does Contact Dermatitis Spread? Is Contact Dermatitis Contagious?

 A person contracts contact dermatitis after coming into contact with the substance that irritates their skin. In some people only a small amount is necessary to cause a reaction. Other people will only get contact dermatitis after prolonged contact or contact with a large amount of an irritant.

Sofa dermatitis is a particular kind of skin allergy caused by contact with dimethyl fumarate, a substance used in leather couches, sofas, or other furniture to stop mold growth. Contact with this antifungal agent can cause rashes or blistering skin. In more serious cases it has caused chemical burns.

In most people sofa dermatitis symptoms include a red, itchy, scaly eczema-like rash that does not respond to the standard over the counter, topical treatments for eczema or contact dermatitis. The rash is usually found on parts of the body that would have been in prolonged contact with a couch or safa. For example, the buttocks, back of the legs, or back. 

Dimethyl fumarate has been banned in countries in Europe, but is still allowed in products sold in the United States. If you have contracted sofa dermatitis you might be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the sofa for using a substance known to cause severe allergic reactions. 

However, since the substance is not regulated in the United States, it might be difficult to prevail in a sofa dermatitis lawsuit. Consulting an experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine whether you have a claim that is worth pursuing.

How Long Does Contact Dermatitis Last?

Once the irritating substance has been removed, contact dermatitis should clear up in about two to four weeks. Generally the skin will begin to improve once you are able to successfully avoid contact with the substance. 

Over the counter medications can help alleviate some of the symptoms, like the itching. However, If the skin is very itchy and you scratch it a lot, the rash might get worse or even infected. Recovery will take longer and may require more medical intervention.

What if I Have a Contact Dermatitis Condition or Injury?

Some of the more common contact dermatitis treatments include:

  • Keep the skin clean and avoid the irritating substance
  • Soothe the skin with cool compresses and petroleum jelly
  • Over the counter corticosteroids, like hydrocortisone cream
  • More serious cases may require oral steroids to combat the inflammation
  • Antihistamines for itching
  • Antibiotics if the skin appears to be infected

If these treatments are not successful, you should contact a medical professional.

What Does Contact Dermatitis Look Like?

Contact dermatitis symptoms most commonly include a red, itchy, scaly rash. It can develop into blisters or oozing skin. The affected skin might appear darker or leathery compared to skin that is not irritated. The skin might also swell and be more sensitive to the sun.

What Causes Contact Dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis causes include contact with toxic materials or contact with allergens. Toxic materials are most likely to cause an immediate skin reaction. Prolonged exposure to less irritating  substances can also lead to contact dermatitis symptoms. Some people might be in contact with substances for a long time before they ever exhibit symptoms. The exposure over time actually leads them to develop a sensitivity to the substance.

Is Contact Dermatitis Serious and Dangerous?

In most cases contact dermatitis is not serious. However, if it is left untreated, or if open wounds develop, there is a chance the skin can become infected.  In other cases contact dermatitis can require more serious medical intervention. Such as when the affected skin is near the eyes, nose, or mouth. 

A very severe allergic reaction is possible, and that might lead to breathing or heart complications. Medical assistance should be sought immediately if a person has trouble breathing after being a contact with a substance that causes allergic contact dermatitis.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Contact Dermatitis Claims?

If you have contracted contact dermatitis in your workplace, or have used a product that may have contained a harmful ingredient, you should contact a personal injury lawyer. An experienced attorney will be able to evaluate your claim and advise you of your rights. They can negotiate a possible settlement with the defendant and represent you in court.