By: Ryan Goings

Dermatitis is a localized inflammation of the skin. In general, inflammation refers to a condition in the body when it is trying to react to a localized injury of tissues. Signs of inflammation include some or all of the following: redness, heat, swelling, and pain.

Occupational irritant contact dermatitis is an inflammation caused by substances found in the workplace that come in direct contact with the skin. Signs of irritant contact dermatitis include redness of the skin, blisters, scales or crusts. These symptoms do not necessarily occur at the same time or in all cases. This kind of dermatitis is caused by chemicals that are irritating (e.g., acids, bases, fat-dissolving solvents) to the skin and is localized to the area of contact.

Factors contributing to irritation include

  • the chemical properties of the substance (for example, is it an acid, an  alkali, or a salt)
  • the amount and concentration of chemical coming in contact with the skin, and the length and frequency of the exposure.

Contact dermatitis may be treated with compresses, creams, ointments and skin cleansers. In general, people should protect their skin from physical trauma, chemical irritation, excessive sunlight, wind, and rapid temperature changes while the dermatitis is active.

How does one protect him or herself from irritant contact dermatitis?  There are several guidelines to follow which will reduce the likelihood of this illness:

  • personal hygiene
  • substitution of a less harmful substance
  • enclosure of the process
  • automation of the work procedures
  • local exhaust ventilation systems
  • good housekeeping
  • education
  • protective clothing
  • barrier creams, skin cleansers
  • convenient washing facilities

Establishing a good program to avoid exposure of the skin to irritant substances is vitally important for eliminating irritant contact dermatitis.