Contact Dermatitis in Children

What is contact dermatitis in children?

Contact dermatitis is a skin
reaction from contact with certain substances. The substances may be:

  • Irritants. These cause direct skin
    irritation and inflammation. They are the most common cause of contact
  • Allergens. These cause the body’s immune system to have an allergic reaction. The body releases defense chemicals that cause skin symptoms. Allergens are a less common cause of contact dermatitis.                      

What causes contact dermatitis in a child?

Common irritants that can cause contact dermatitis in children include:

  • Soaps and detergents
  • Spit (saliva)
  • Urine in a diaper
  • Lotions and perfumes

Common allergens that can cause contact dermatitis in children include:

  • Poison ivy, oak, and sumac. These are plants with oil that causes skin allergies.
  • Metals. These include nickel, chrome,
    and mercury. Nickel is found in costume jewelry, belt buckles, and wristwatches, as
    well as zippers, snaps, and hooks on clothing. Chrome-plated items may also
    contain nickel. Mercury is found in contact lens solutions. It may cause problems for
    some children.
  • Latex. Latex is found in
    products such as rubber toys, balloons, balls, rubber gloves, bandages, and pacifiers
    or nipples.
  • Cosmetics. Products include dyes used in hair color, clothing, perfumes, eye shadow, nail polish, lipstick, and some sunscreens.
  • Medicines. Neomycin may also cause contact dermatitis. It’s found in some kinds of antibiotic cream and local anesthetic.

Which children are at risk for contact dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis can occur in any child. If your child has atopic dermatitis (eczema), he or she is at increased risk for contact dermatitis.

What are the symptoms of contact dermatitis in a child?

Symptoms can be a bit different for
each child. The skin may be:

  • Itchy
  • Painful
  • Red
  • Swollen
  • Dry, cracked, peeling
  • Bleeding
  • Oozing, draining, crusting
  • Blistering

Symptoms are often worse where the
substance came in contact with the skin. Larger areas may also be affected. The symptoms
of contact dermatitis can seem like other health conditions. Have your child see his or
her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is contact dermatitis diagnosed in a child?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a skin exam. The provider will also ask about recent contact with any irritants or allergens. Your child may also have tests, such as skin tests or blood tests. Your child may need to see an allergist or dermatologist. An allergist is a doctor with special training to treat allergies. A dermatologist is a doctor with special training to treat skin problems.