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Contact and Other Eczema - Types, Treatment, and Prevention

Dermatologist's photograph

Dr. Kósa Péter

Occurrence, Symptoms, and Types of Eczema

When the surface of the skin becomes inflamed, typically accompanied by the appearance of blisters, redness, swelling, oozing, crusting, peeling, and itching, it is referred to as eczema. If it is triggered by substances that come into contact with the skin, it is called contact eczema or contact dermatitis.

Symptoms of eczema usually appear a few days after contact with the triggering substance. Sometimes, it may take a longer period, even one to two weeks. The affected individual may notice that their skin becomes red, swollen, and develops small blisters that itch, burst, and ooze. When the triggering factor is removed, the symptoms may still worsen for a few more days, and it may take several weeks for them to resolve completely. Although eczema initially manifests in the area where the triggering substance came into contact with the skin, it can later spread to any part of the body.

Causes and Types

Skin inflammation can be caused by chemical substances, irritation, or allergic reactions.

Allergies are usually triggered by commonly used substances, such as:

  • Jewelry, accessories, metal watchbands, belt buckles, or denim buttons containing nickel and chromium
  • Synthetic materials, such as nylon
  • Medications, such as antibiotics or local anesthetics
  • Cosmetic products, including hand, face, and body creams, shampoos, hair dyes, nail polish, powder, lipstick, toothpaste
  • Other chemical substances, such as certain adhesives or even cement

A special form of eczema is photoallergic contact dermatitis. It occurs when the patient's skin comes into contact with certain substances, becomes photosensitive, and is then exposed to sunlight. It can be caused by certain perfumes, aftershaves, antibiotics, tar, oil, paradoxically some sunscreens, as well as contact with leaves of plants containing furocoumarins (such as celery, parsley, citrus fruits, carrots, figs).


Generally, multiple skin tests are required, during which suspicious allergens come into direct contact with the skin. The development and magnitude of the reaction can provide insight into the severity of the allergy.


In all cases, it is necessary to identify the triggering allergen and ideally eliminate it completely. This can pose significant challenges for hairdressers, professionals working with dyes, adhesives, or medications. Eczema often develops among masons due to the presence of chromium in cement.

Local or, if necessary, internal treatment can be applied.

  • Local treatment is generally anti-inflammatory and disinfectant. Cooling compresses can be applied to the inflamed area, followed by the application of disinfectant ointments or solutions. Additionally, local anti-inflammatory treatment may be indicated.
  • Internal treatment is given against itching and allergic inflammation. These usually include second-generation, non-sedating antihistamine preparations that can be taken for a longer period of time.
  • In cases of severe contact dermatitis, the use of steroid-containing tablets may also be warranted.

It is extremely important not to self-medicate! Improper use of steroid-containing medications or creams can have serious consequences such as skin atrophy, stretch marks, or even systemic side effects.


  • The most important factor is avoiding allergens.
  • Care for and moisturize your skin, as this reduces the skin's reaction even if contact dermatitis develops. Contact dermatitis always causes more severe symptoms on dry, neglected skin.
  • Prefer quick showers over long baths.
  • Limit the frequency, shower only two to three times a week, if your occupation allows.
  • Choose natural ingredients, neutral pH, gentle soap or body wash that preserves the skin's natural oils and moisture.
  • In general, antibacterial soaps tend to be more drying. Gels and liquid soaps are preferable. Only use antibacterial cleansers on areas of the body that truly require cleansing.
  • After washing, gently shake off excess water from your hands and pat or blot the remaining moisture with a towel, avoiding rubbing.
  • Apply moisturizing cream directly to the skin surface after washing. Pay special attention to areas prone to dryness (face, neck, hands, feet, elbows, knees) when applying lotion.
  • Scratching dry, itchy skin is not recommended. Trim your nails short and consider wearing lightweight gloves on itchy hands overnight. Wearing breathable, soft cotton clothing can be beneficial.
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