• By Vivien Williams

Mayo Clinic Minute: Allergy or irritant? The truth about your rash

September 21, 2018

Skin rashes are common. Soaps, detergents, plants and other substances can trigger red, itchy skin. Dr. Dawn Davis, a Mayo Clinic dermatologist, says these types of rashes can be the result of an allergic reaction or an irritation. Knowing the difference is key to getting the right treatment.

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Hand-washing is essential for preventing the spread of germs. But, sometimes, all this scrubbing can cause a rash. Does this mean you’re allergic to the soap?

“One important thing to differentiate from allergic contact dermatitis is irritant contact dermatitis,” says Dr. Davis.

Allergic dermatitis means a substance is causing an allergic reaction on your skin. But irritant contact dermatitis means your skin is inflamed from repeated exposure to something.

“For example, if I used lye soap on my skin, and I used it over and over again, I would develop an irritant contact dermatitis simply from eroding away the natural barrier of my skin with repetitive washing,” says Dr. Davis.

It’s not always easy to tell the difference between an allergy or irritant.

“So it’s very helpful to go to a health provider, especially a dermatologist or allergist, to help differentiate between irritant contact dermatitis and an allergy,” says Dr. Davis.

That way you can properly treat the rash and prevent it from happening again.

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