Dermatitis (also called eczema) is an itchy inflammation of the skin. There
are many types of dermatitis.
Signs and Symptoms
Itching, pain, stinging, or burning
Blisters, thick or scaly skin, red skin, sores from
What Causes It?
Allergic reactions (for example, to poison oak or ivy)
Low humidity or soaps and detergents
Chemicals, such as nickel and cobalt
Working with chemicals or wetting hands often
Genetic make up
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Your health care provider will try to determine the cause of your dermatitis
and make sure you have dermatitis and not a similar disease, such as psoriasis,
skin cancer, or some psychological conditions.
Some corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are taken internally to
reduce swelling. Others, such as hydrocortisone, are applied directly to the
skin to relieve discomfort.
Antihistamines relieve itching; some may also help you
Antibiotics, either topical (to put on your skin) or in pill form,
are prescribed if there is an infection.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Following nutritional guidelines and using herbal support may help reduce
inflammation and hypersensitivity. Hypersensitivity associated with stress and
anxiety may be helped by mind-body techniques such as meditation, tai chi, yoga,
and stress management.
Note: Lower doses are for children.
Eliminate or reduce exposure to environmental or food allergens.
Common allergenic foods are dairy, soy, citrus, peanuts, wheat (sometimes all
gluten-containing grains), fish, eggs, corn, and tomatoes.
Reduce pro-inflammatory foods in the diet including saturated fats
(meats, especially poultry, and dairy), refined foods, and sugar.
Increase intake of fresh vegetables, whole grains, and essential
fatty acids (cold-water fish, nuts, and seeds).
Flaxseed, borage, or evening primrose oil (1,000 to 1,500 mg one to
two times per day) are anti-inflammatory. Children should be given cod liver oil
(1 tsp. per day) or omega-3 oils (fish oils).
Beta-carotene (25,000 to 100,000 IU per day), zinc (10 to 30 mg per
day), and vitamin E (200 to 800 IU per day) support immune function and skin
Vitamin C (1,000 mg two to four times per day) inhibits histamine
release. Rose hips or palmitate are citrus-free and hypoallergenic.
Selenium (100 to 200 mcg per day) helps regulate fatty acid
metabolism and is a cofactor in liver detoxification.
Bromelain (100 to 250 mg two to four times per day) helps reduce
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites
(glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise
indicated, teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep
covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers; 10 to 20 minutes for roots.
Flavonoids, a substance found in dark berries and some plants, have
anti-inflammatory properties, strengthen connective tissue, and reduce
hypersensitivity. The following flavonoids may be taken in dried extract
Catechin (25 to 150 mg two to three times per day), quercetin (50 to
250 mg two to three times per day), hesperidin (50 to 250 mg two to three times
per day), and rutin (50 to 250 mg two to three times per day).
Rose hips (Rosa canina) are also high in flavonoids and may be
used as a tea. Drink 3 to 4 cups per day.
The following herbs support skin healing and lymphatic drainage; use in
combination as a tincture (15 to 30 drops three times per day) or tea (2 to 4
cups per day). Peppermint (Mentha piperita), red clover (Trifolium
pratense), cleavers (Gallium aparine), yarrow (Achillea
millefolium), and prickly ash bark (Xanthoxylum clava-herculis).
Sarsaparilla (Smilax species) helps heal hot, red, inflamed
skin, and gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is good for dry, scaly, crusty
skin. Use 3 ml sarsaparilla and 2 ml gotu kola tincture daily, or 3 cups tea per
Oregon grape (Mahonia aquafolium) or red alder bark (Alnus rubra)
taken as tincture (20 to 30 drops three times a day) helps the liver
Creams and salves containing one or more of the following herbs may help
relieve itching and burning, and promote healing. Chickweed (Stellaria
media), marigold (Calendula officinalis), comfrey (Symphytum
officinale), and chamomile (Matricaria recutita).
Peppermint leaf tea may be cooled and applied to relieve itching and burning.
An external menthol ointment can also help.
Some of the most common remedies used for dermatitis are listed below.
Usually, the dose is 3 to 5 pellets of a 12X to 30C remedy every one to four
hours until your symptoms get better.
Apis mellifica for hot, swollen vesicles
Rhus toxicodendron for intense itching and burning
Urtica urens for burning, stinging
Acupuncture may help restore normal immune function and reduce the
Massage may help reduce stress, which makes dermatitis
Carefully avoid whatever gives you dermatitis and prevent infection and
scarring by not scratching.
Check with your provider before using any medication if you are
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Review Date: August 1999
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Richard A. Lippin, MD, President,
The Lippin Group, Southampton, PA; Anne McClenon, ND, Compass Family Health
Center, Plymouth, MA; Sherif H. Osman, MD, President, Medical Staff Harford
Memorial Hospital, Falston General Hospital, Bel Air, MD; David Winston,
Herbalist, Herbalist and Alchemist, Inc., Washington,
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