Contact dermatitis and other allergic reactions on the skin can lead to discomfort, not only physically, but psychologically as well. While there are medications available to help ease the discomfort of contact dermatitis, the best thing to do is to avoid what causes your skin to have an allergic reaction. First, however, you have to figure out what you are allergic to. Here's what you need to know.
Elimination vs Medical Testing
Trying to determine what someone is allergic to through the process of elimination can not only be annoying and uncomfortable, but it may also be useless. The only way for it to work is to eliminate everything, including antihistamine medication, and introduce one thing at a time until the offending allergen is found. This can be next to impossible for allergies to things like dust and mold spores. Instead of trying elimination, have testing done by an allergist instead.
Patch Test for Contact Dermatitis
For contact dermatitis, the best test is the patch test. The reason for this is because it will show the allergist how your skin reacts to the various items that are placed in the chambers on the patch. There are other tests for allergies that your allergist may request, particularly if you also have hay fever, asthma, or food allergies. These other tests include the skin prick test and blood tests.
These tests are done by board-certified allergists. For the patch tests, chambers in a strip are filled with various allergens and then the strip is secured directly onto your back to see if any of the allergens cause a reaction in your skin. The substances that are put into the chambers will depend on your answers to a questionnaire as well as your medical history and clinical evaluation. For example, you may be asked about what materials you are exposed to at work and what cleaning products you use at home.
Follow All Directions
You will keep the patch secured to your skin for a period of several days before returning to the clinic to have the patch removed so the allergist can see if your skin reacted and to which chambers. Then, you will return again several days later for another visit to see if you have any delayed reactions. While the patches are on your back, you will not be able to shower, and you'll need to avoid sun exposure and sweating. You'll also need to avoid using topical medications and moisturizers as well as antihistamines.
Speak with your allergist for more instructions about patch testing.