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Contact Dermatitis Could Be the Reason for Your Child's Rash

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Contact Dermatitis Could Be the Reason for Your Child's Rash

Jun 05, 2023

Have you ever put a piece of clothing or jewelry on your child to have them break out in a rash or hives? It’s called contact dermatitis, and it’s more common than you may think. Pediatrician Cindy Gellner, MD, explains the condition and how you can treat and prevent those itchy rashes your kid may get with certain materials.

Episode Transcript

Have you ever put a piece of clothing or jewelry on your child and then they break out in a rash? Sadly, it's happened to me. I didn't know Angora was rabbit fur when I bought a sweater as a teenager, and I didn't know that white gold had a lot of nickel in it. Contact dermatitis and allergic rashes happen more than people realize.

Common Triggers for Allergic Skin Rashes

So the most common reasons for allergic skin rashes are due to something your body comes in contact with that triggers the reaction. People who have a history of allergies, asthma, and eczema are more prone to reacting to things they come in contact with. Different fabrics, like any with animal hair, detergents with scents, anything that has latex, including some Band-Aids, and any metal that contains nickel are the most common triggers for contact allergic dermatitis. We see this a lot in kids who have rashes, where the metal snap on jeans rubs against the stomach, for example.

Signs and Symptoms of Allergic Contact Dermatitis

So what does the rash look like? Well, it can look like eczema, or it can look like hives. It will always be itchy. Sometimes if the material is near the face, it can cause swelling of the lips or eyes. When I have earrings that have nickel in them, I'll know right away because my ear lobes will start to swell, get itchy, and even have clear fluid oozing from a red, crusty rash.

Treating Allergic Skin Reactions

Okay. You've determined your child is allergic to whatever was touching their skin. Now what? First, treat the rash. Just like any other allergic reaction, it's treated with oral antihistamines and topical steroid creams until the allergic reaction resolves. If it's serious and causing breathing issues, you will need to have your child see a doctor right away to see if oral steroids are needed to quickly shut down their immune system's allergic response and keep their airway open.

Preventing Future Allergic Skin Reactions

Next, you will need to keep your child away from whatever it was that triggered the reaction. I was heartbroken to have to let go of the sweater I'd saved up my own money for, but luckily my sister was able to wear it. For the jewelry or metal snap issue, sometimes painting clear nail polish on any part of the metal that touches your child's skin will help. Many places sell nickel-free jewelry. So that helps with fashion options. Luckily, pull-on leggings are also in style for girls, and athletic pants with elastic waists are good for boys. So jeans can be avoided as well if needed. If it's latex your child is allergic to, there are a lot of good non-latex Band-Aids out there. If it's a certain soap or detergent, then it's time to switch the whole family to dye and fragrance-free products.

Allergic contact dermatitis is very easy for your child's pediatrician to recognize if they have it. Unfortunately, the treatment is to avoid whatever your child is sensitive to. That's the hard part, but it's very doable. Your child's pediatrician can help with tips specific to your child if needed.


updated: June 5, 2023
originally published: May 23, 2022