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What is contact eczema?

Contact eczema, also known as contact dermatitis, is a skin inflammation caused by an allergic reaction after contact (usually prolonged) with substances able to penetrate into the skin (=allergens). Skin inflammation causes eczema plaques, itching and has a negative effect on quality of life.

Treatment of isolated contact eczema

Treating an isolated case of contact eczema is relatively easy. To treat flare-ups, topical corticosteroids are applied to relieve inflammation until plaques disappear and emollients are applied to repair the skin. To prevent new flare-ups, contact with the allergen must be completely avoided. If this allergen is identified in the professional context, it is sometimes necessary to adapt the work environment or even change jobs. This would be the case for a hairdresser who develops an allergy to the dyes she applies to her clients' hair every day.

Atopic dermatitis & contact eczema

Please note that contact eczema can occur as part of atopy. In other words, someone with atopic dermatitis is at a greater risk of developing contact eczema because their skin is already fragile and deficient in its role as a protective barrier.

We often think that contact eczema affects adults only, but it actually affects children as well. For example, a little girl can develop contact eczema after wearing costume jewelry made with nickel.

Contact eczema or irritant contact dermatitits?

Contact eczema must not be confused with irritant contact dermatitis. The visual aspect is similar, but the cause is markedly different. Irritant contact dermatitis does not develop because of an allergy, but because of handling aggressive and irritant products such as detergents or solvents, particularly in a professional context. The worker, whether allergic or not, must protect their skin, by wearing gloves for example. In this case as well, the person with atopy is at greater risk than other people.