A woman rubs lotion into her hands.

Contact dermatitis

Expert contact dermatitis treatment in Minnesota

Have your ears ever itched after wearing a pair of earrings? Or have you noticed a rash on your arms after trying a new lotion? Many people have allergic reactions to things that touch their skin. This condition is called contact dermatitis.

It can be painful and frustrating to deal with rashes and not know what’s causing them. But mystery rashes aren’t something you have to endure alone. As one of the only dedicated contact dermatitis clinic in Minnesota, we’re uniquely skilled in extended patch tests and can diagnose even the most complex cases of contact dermatitis.

Our team of dermatologists and allergists at the Park Nicollet Contact Dermatitis Clinic can help with everything from personalized treatment plans to occupational evaluations, workers’ compensation evaluations and other services. We’ll work with you to investigate the cause, get to the root of your issue and help you find relief.

The Park Nicollet Contact Dermatitis Clinic

The Park Nicollet Contact Dermatitis Clinic is one of the only dedicated contact dermatitis clinics in Minnesota. We offer extended patch testing all year long, so you can schedule an appointment that’s convenient for you. Appointments at the Park Nicollet Contact Dermatitis Clinic are by referral only. If you would like to make an appointment, please talk to your doctor. Once they fill out the referral, we’ll help you schedule your first appointment with us.

If you’re traveling from out of town, don’t worry. The Park Nicollet Contact Dermatitis Clinic is near the airport and many different hotel options are nearby.

What is contact dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis, sometimes called contact eczema, is an allergic reaction caused by something coming into direct contact with your skin. The reaction is typically a red, itchy rash that forms where your skin touched the allergen. The rash usually develops within a few hours of contact. Common allergens include metals, fragrances, hair dye and many ingredients found used in personal care products.

Contact dermatitis symptoms

Each person has slightly different symptoms. However, common contact dermatitis symptoms include:

  • Red, irritated skin
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Bumps or blisters
  • Hot or tender skin

Diagnosing contact dermatitis

The best way to diagnose contact dermatitis is with a skin test called patch testing. It’s designed specifically to diagnose skin allergens.

During patch testing, we apply small amounts of suspected allergens to your skin and cover the test sites with small patches of tape. The patches are removed after two days and then the skin underneath the patches is marked with ink. We mark the skin to note where we placed different allergens. These ink marks stay in place for up to eight days when a final exam is performed. Once the test is complete, we’ll be able to diagnose what allergies you have and start you on a treatment plan.

Contact dermatitis treatment

The best way to treat contact dermatitis is to avoid allergens. After we diagnose your allergens, we’ll give you a list of safe-to-use products to help you choose items that won’t cause a rash. We also might prescribe additional treatments like steroid creams or oral medicines.

What to expect during your visits

During your fist appointment, we’ll perform a detailed evaluation of your symptoms. We’ll ask you about the history of your rash, your home, work environment, hobbies and any past treatments you’ve tried. The information we get from the evaluation will help us decide if you need extended patch testing.

If you need a patch test, we’ll place the patches during this visit. You’ll need to keep the patches on for 48 hours. The patches will be removed at your second visit. A third and final visit will consist of a full evaluation and treatment plan. Our team will let you know what to expect and answer all your questions. The first visit typically takes three hours. Your second and third visits will each take up to one and a half hours.

What to bring to your first visit

In order for you to get the most from your appointment, we ask that you bring the following items:

Your medical records

Bring a copy of your medical records with you. You can also mail or fax them before your appointment. If you’re already a patient with HealthPartners and Park Nicollet, your medical records will already be in our system.

Personal items

Please include all personal items you think may be causing your dermatitis or are making it worse. Our patients typically bring a rolling suitcase or a large box full of items in their original containers and empty containers.

See a complete list of products to bring to your appointment (PDF).

Make sure to include workplace items that might be making your dermatitis worse. Some patients choose to take a short video of their workplace instead of bringing in samples. Ask your supervisor for a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for a list of items used in your workplace.

Other helpful items

Bringing these items will help make your appointment run smoothly.

  • Your insurance card.
  • An old shirt to wear in case some of the ink used during the test rubs off on the shirt.
  • A hair binder to tie back long hair.
  • A book, activity or friend to keep you entertained while you wait.

Instructions to follow during your patch test

It’s important to follow the instructions we provide for your patches in order to get the best results. We’ll provide detailed instructions during your appointment. But following these simple rules will help you have a successful test:

Stay dry

Moisture can cause the patches to come loose and may wash away the ink used to mark the location of your tests. You’ll need to keep your back dry at all times during your patch test. Consider taking sponge baths instead of showering, avoiding activities where you may sweat and wearing a snug shirt while sleeping to absorb sweat.

Don’t mess with your patches

You’ll probably experience some itching during this test. That’s normal. If the itching is severe or painful, call us. We’ll have someone remove the itchy or painful patch. Avoid scratching the itch or removing the patches yourself.

It’s unlikely that a patch will come loose. But if it does, don’t attempt to adjust the patches. Touching the patches can cause chemicals to mix and skew the results of the test. Instead, remove the loose strip, write down the time and date you did so, and mark the location of the patch you removed on your skin with a permanent marker. If possible, write down any reactions you notice under the patch. This will help us get the most accurate test results.

Avoid light exposure

In the two weeks leading up to your test, avoid sunlight, tanning booths and light treatments to your back. Light can affect your skin’s sensitivity and skew the results of the patch test.

Don’t use oral prednisone

You shouldn’t use oral prednisone the week prior to your test or during your test. It might interfere with your results. If you’ve been using oral prednisone for more than a month, make sure to talk to your doctor before stopping. Stopping the use of oral prednisone suddenly can cause body aches, fatigue or mood swings. Your doctor will work with you to slowly ease you off oral prednisone so you can have a patch test.

Don’t get a cortisone injection

Cortisone injections can also interfere with the results of your test. Let us know if you’ve had a cortisone injection within a month of your scheduled test. If you have, we’ll help you reschedule your test.

If you’re using a topical cream or ointment, don’t apply them to your back the week before your test.

Let us know which medicines you’re taking

Some medicines can interfere with your test results. If you’re on any medicines, don’t stop taking them without discussing this with the doctor who prescribed the medication. Instead, contact us at 952-977-3450 and let us know.

Please let us know if you’re taking the following medicines:

  • Methotrexate (Xatmep, Trexall, Otrexup (PF))
  • Prednisone (Rayos, Prednisone Intensol, Deltasone)
  • Steroid injection (methylprednisolone sodium succinate injection (Solu-Medrol), triamcinolone (Kenalog), betamethasone (Celestone), methylprednisolone (Depo-Medrol)
  • Imuran (azathioprine)
  • Cyclosporine (Sandimmune, Neoral, Gengraf)
  • Dupixent (dupilumab)
  • CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil)

Frequently asked questions (FAQs )