Dermatitis (dur-muh-TYE-tis) is inflammation of the skin that causes itching and discomfort. There are many types of dermatitis.
Dermatitis can be the result of contact with an allergen or substance like poison ivy or detergents (contact dermatitis). It also can be caused by oily skin or hair (seborrheic dermatitis, also known as cradle cap in infants). Atopic dermatitis (eczema), another type of dermatitis, runs in families and is often associated with allergies or asthma.
Symptoms of dermatitis include itching, burning, or swelling on the surface of the skin. Blisters, scaly, dry or thick skin, and a red rash also may develop. The condition is not contagious.
Treatment depends on the type of dermatitis and what caused it. The doctor may recommend thoroughly washing the area with water or applying moisturizers, corticosteroid skin creams, or other ointments to the affected area. Corticosteroid pills may be prescribed to treat severe cases. Sometimes doctors will recommend leaving it alone.
Dermatitis is a nuisance but usually not a serious health problem. It can, however, turn into a bacterial skin infection if not treated properly, so always contact your doctor if you see signs of dermatitis.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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