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 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.
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.
Each person has slightly different symptoms. However, common contact dermatitis symptoms include:
- Red, irritated skin
- Bumps or blisters
- Hot or tender skin
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.
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.
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.
In order for you to get the most from your appointment, we ask that you bring the following items:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
Yes, you do need a referral to make an appointment at the Park Nicollet Contact Dermatitis Clinic. The referral typically comes from a dermatologist or allergist, though your orthopedic doctor or dentist might refer you in some cases.
If you think you might have contact dermatitis, your first step is to make an appointment with one of our dermatologists or allergists . We’ll examine your skin, talk to you about your symptoms and guide you toward the next step that’s best for you.
If you have any questions or problems with your patch tests, please give us a call. Just let us know you’re a patch test patient and explain your concern. We’ll make sure you get the information you need.
Call 952-977-3450. On evenings and weekends, press 7 to speak with a nurse.
While the amount of visits you need will vary depending on your condition, all patients visit our clinic a minimum of three times. During the first visit, we’ll perform an initial evaluation, skin exam and place the patches for your skin patch test. This visit typically takes three hours. At the second visit, we’ll remove the patches and mark the affected skin with a marker. This visit typically takes an hour and a half.
We’ll find out the results of your patch test during the third visit. Once we have the results, we’ll talk to you about next steps and provide a list of personal care products that don’t include your allergens. This visit typically takes one hour. Our team will help you schedule your appointments.
If more visits are needed, we’ll talk to you about what to expect. If you’re traveling from out of town, we can help recommend nearby hotels when you make your appointment.
We may take photos of the rash and patch sites to use during treatment. These photos may be used to teach students and doctors about contact dermatitis. Please let us know if you don’t want your photos used for teaching during your visit.
We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, PreferredOne and many others.
Not sure what your insurance covers? Call the number on the back of your card for help looking at your options.
Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are member services numbers to help you get started:
- HealthPartners: 800-883-2177
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota: 800-382-2000
- CIGNA: 800-244-6224 (insurance through work); 866-494-2111 (insurance directly or through the Exchange)
- Medica: 800-952-3455
- Medicare: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
- PreferredOne: 763-847-4477 (in the Twin Cities); 800-997-1750 (outside the metro area)
- United Healthcare: 877-842-3210