What is the difference between atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis?
- by Petra Jelinkova
When your child has eczema, we often become absorbed in finding the right products and introducing a skincare routine into our already busy days. This is very important, as our bath soaks and eczema moisturiser can provide much needed relief and deep hydration to your little one’s itchy skin. While this is the case, we sometimes don’t realise that there are different types of eczema. The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis. However, depending on the type of eczema your child has, it can be affected by different triggers in the environment. Understanding the different types of eczema can help us better manage our children’s skin.
What is atopic dermatitis?
Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema, and happens when the immune system does not function properly and responds in an exaggerated way to an allergen or irritant inside or outside the body. It usually appears within the first six months, especially in children with a family history of hay fever, asthma or eczema (the atopic triad). This is linked to the allergic antibody, IgE in our immune system, which reacts to foreign substances to try and get rid of irritants, and in doing so, triggers flare ups. Research has shown that people with atopic dermatitis have a mutation in the gene responsible for creating filaggrin – a protein that helps to support a protective barrier on the skin to keep irritants from entering the body. Without filaggrin, moisture can escape, and bacteria or viruses can enter, resulting in dry skin which makes skin infection more common.
Some of the common symptoms of atopic dermatitis include:
- Dry and itchy skin
- Rashes on different parts of the body – especially cheeks, arms and legs
- Open, crusted sores as well as cracks on the skin which might mean there is an infection
What makes atopic dermatitis worse?
Some of the main triggers that make atopic dermatitis worse include:
- Warm weather – hot skin is itchy skin and sweating can feel itchy and prickly causing more scratching
- Cold weather – skin becomes very dry, scaly and rough
- Some household products – laundry detergent, fragranced shampoo and soaps
What is contact dermatitis?
Contact dermatitis happens when the skin touches irritating substances. It is an immune-mediated skin rash that occurs at the site of contact with an irritant or allergen, causing the skin to be inflamed, itchy and red. The two main types of contact dermatitis include irritant contact dermatitis, when the skin touches an irritating chemical, resulting in an immediate reaction, or allergic contact dermatitis, where the skin can take 48-96 hours to develop a reaction.
The signs and symptoms of contact dermatitis may appear similar to those of atopic dermatitis, such as itchiness, irritated dry skin, redness, burning or swelling, and blisters that may crust over.
The most common irritants include:
- Industrial chemicals
- Detergents and skin care products containing alcohol
- Environmental irritants like dust
- Tobacco smoke, fumes and paint
- Allergens such as animal dander or pollen
How can I manage my child’s dermatitis flare ups?
Knowing what can trigger your child’s eczema helps to manage flare ups. If your child has contact dermatitis, make sure to avoid substances that cause a reaction. You can keep a record of products that trigger your child’s eczema so your more confidant of what the triggers could be, as well as reading labels of products to make sure it doesn’t contain ingredients that might cause flare ups.
For the most common type of eczema, atopic dermatitis, it is important to maintain a daily bathing and moisturising routine. Regular bathing using itchy baby co bath soaks cleanses the skin, washing away irritants which are sitting in the surface, as well as moisturising the skin and preparing the skin to absorb the most nourishment from moisturising for long lasting skin protection and hydration.
This blog post was brought to you and your family with love from Julia and the itchy baby co. team x.
Disclaimer: Information provided is of a general nature only, and you should always consult your medical professional.