Dermatitis is a general term that means inflammation of the skin. It can cause an itchy rash or patches of dry irritated skin. The earlier dermatitis is diagnosed and treated the better. Without treatment, dermatitis often gets worse. There are many types of dermatitis, but the strategy of treatment is usually the same; to treat the inflamation and improve the skin hydration to prevent future flares. The inflamation is generally treated with a steroid cream, ointment, spray or foam preparation. The strength chosen is based on the location of the dermatitis and the severity. Common steroids used are hydrocortisone, triamcinilone, fluocinonide and clobetasol and are used twice daily to the red itchy areas. To repair the skin and prevent the dermatitis from returning the following are recommended.
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- Moisturize: Apply a moisturizer at least once a day. The best time is just after bathing while your skin is damp. A moisturizer helps trap water in the skin. Some moisturizers that we recommend are Cetaphil, Cereve and Aveeno. For severe dryness or sensitive areas petroleum jelly, Aquaphor or Vaniply ointment can be used
- Avoid activities that bother your skin: Anything that dries, heats, or irritates your skin can cause a flare-up. To avoid flare-ups, we recommend using lukewarm water for showers and baths, getting out of the shower or bath after 20 minutes, and not sitting next to a fire or heater.
- Skip the soap: Using a mild, gentle cleanser to clean your skin instead of soap will help. Soap can dry the skin. Some recommendations are Cetaphil or Cereve cleansers
- Dress for success: You are less likely to irritate your skin if you wear loose clothing. You also should not wear rough fabrics, such as wool, which can bother your skin.
- Avoid possible irritants: Our skin generally becomes allergic to the things we have used the longest. Also even if you are not allergic certain products are more likely to irritate the skin once the barrier has been disrupted with dermatitis. We recommend using fragrance/dye free detergent, avoiding fabric softeners and dryer sheets and fragrances. For eyelid dermatitis avoid nail polish and nail polish remover. For perioral dermatitis avoid fluoride toothpaste.
For itching antihistamines are also helpful. We often recommend a non drowsy formula for daytime such as Allegra, Zyrtec or Claritin and Benadryl at night. Sometimes prescription antihistamines can be helpful. Generally dermatitis can be easily treated and resolve with the above recommendations. However, there are cases where more aggressive treatment is needed. If your rash is not improved in 4-6 weeks or recurs frequently please let us know, so we may re-evaluate your treatment strategy.