If you think that you are suffering from dermatitis you should make an appointment with your doctor without delay. He or she will be able to prescribe treatment for you, and to refer you to a specialist if necessary.
To clear the symptoms, your doctor may suggest the following:
- A moisturiser (emollient) may be all that is needed in mild cases. This will help to ease the itching and cool the inflammation.
- A topical steroid ointment may also help to reduce the inflammation, but it is a short term measure only.
- In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe steroid tablets.
- Other treatments are available if these do not work, including exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light
Ultimately, however, contact dermatitis is best treated by avoiding the substance that causes it.
This is not always easy. Sometimes it is not obvious what is causing the reaction, especially in cases of allergic contact dermatitis. The solution is often to try ‘patch testing’, where a skin specialist will deliberately place suspect substances on small patches of your skin to check whether there is a reaction.
In addition, if the dermatitis is caused by a substance in your workplace, you may not be able to avoid coming into contact with it unless you actually change your job.
In this case it is essential that you adopt a good hand care routine:
- Keep your hands as dry as possible
- Wear protective gloves when using chemicals or detergents or any other irritant substance
- A barrier cream may also help
- Soap may be too strong for you – try a milder cleanser
- Use moisturiser to keep the skin on your hands pliable
- Be especially careful in winter, when the wind and cold will dry your skin even more
If you suffer from a skin condition that has been caused or made worse by your working conditions, you could be entitled to make a compensation claim.