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What is it?
Dermatitis is an inflammatory skin rash that is usually itchy.


Atopic dermatitis: Starts in early childhood, Dry, red and Scaly Skin. Small itchy rash, mainly on the face and flexures of the elbows and knees. As the child scratches, wet and weepy areas form. These later crust over.
Contact (allergic) dermatitis: An itchy red flaky rash which is usually limited to the area of contact. May take weeks or months to develop. In the case of severe allergy the dermatitis develops within 48 hours. The skin becomes red and itchy, even beyond the point of contact and tiny blisters develop. The blisters may join to form larger ones, which then break and crust over. If traces of allergic substance are transferred from the hands to the face, dermatitis may develop on the face.
Seborrhoeic dermatitis: In Infants
Usually a red scaly rash on the face and body. May also appear as yellowish, greasy-looking scales on the scalp (cradle cap).
In Adults: Creases on the sides of the nose and corners of the mouth become red, Flaky and itchy. In men the condition may extend to the beard area, the hairy parts of the chest and the centre of the back. Seborrhoeic dermatitis on the scalp is the commonest cause of dandruff.


Atopic dermatitis: known although it tends to run in families. May be associated with asthma and hay fever. Trigger factors include perspiration, extremes of heat and cold, skin irritants e.g. wool, soaps, pollen etc
Contact (allergic) dermatitis: Sensitivity to substances which touch the skin or an irritation from toxic substances e.g. chemicals. Products which may cause an allergic reaction include nickel (Jewellery, jean studs) some plants (notably primulas and chrysanthemums), glues, varnishes, paints cosmetics, detergents and chemicals.
Seborrhoeic dermatitis: Unknown
Treatment in the home: Regularly apply a moisturising cream or lotion. Avoid soaps and detergents as much as possible. Use bath oil and emulsifying ointments instead of soap. Bubble baths should be avoided. Apply a moisturizer before swimming, to prevent the chlorine from irritating the skin. Wool worn next to the skin may cause irritation. Wear cotton clothes and use cotton sheets and pillowcases. Rinse clothing thoroughly after washing. Let children wear mittens at night. This may help prevent scratching and reduce the risk of infection. If you suffer from eczema of the hands, avoid contact with irritants by wearing rubber gloves.
Possible complications: If the skin weeps and is scratched, it may become infected.
When to consult a doctor: If the symptoms are severe. If the skin weeps and becomes infected. If there is a family history of dermatitis, asthma or hayfever.
What the doctor may do: Prescribe a corticosteroid cream or ointment if the dermatitis is severe. Prescribe an antihistamine if the rash is very itchy. Prescribe an antibiotic if the skin is infected. If chronic or severe contact dermatitis is diagnosed, patch testing may be done to determine what you are allergic to.