Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Jonathan M. L. White


Irritant contact dermatitis results from a non‐immune specific response to chemical and physical irritants. It is caused or exacerbated by genetic mutations (especially the filaggrin gene) and environmental factors such as temperature, air flow, low humidity and occlusion. These variables at least partly explain the great interindividual variability in irritant reactions. Reactions vary from subjective stinging reactions, mild skin dryness and redness, to potentially life‐threatening chemical burns. Dermatitis of the dorsum of the hand and interdigital space is commonly caused by an irritant dermatitis, although many different clinical patterns may be seen due to different exposures. Patch testing is mandatory to exclude an allergic contact dermatitis. Treatment is by primary prevention, avoidance/substitution of the known irritant (including occupational re‐deployment) and supportive measures. Personal protective equipment must be chosen carefully, with good knowledge of the chemical properties of the relevant irritants.
Keywords chemical burn, irritant contact dermatitis, non‐immune contact urticaria, phototoxic contact dermatitis, subjective stinging reaction


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