Contact and Environmental Dermatitis
The OHSU Contact Dermatitis and Occupational Skin Disease Clinic supports patients who suffer from skin allergies. A doctor's referral is required for this clinic.
Although there a number of different types of allergic reactions, this clinic is dedicated to contact allergies. Contact dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin that results from direct contact with certain substances, such as soap, cosmetics, jewelry, skin care products, gloves, clothing or plants. It can be extremely itchy and uncomfortable. This reaction typically occurs between one and seven days following contact with the substance and usually lasts longer than a few days. The rash usually presents at the site of contact. However, because there is such a large number of substances that may cause a reaction, the condition often presents in a variety of different locations and distributions.
Patch testing is a method used in the clinic to identify the substance that is causing contact dermatitis. The process involves placing substances on small aluminum disks that are then applied to the surface of the patient's back. These patches stay on for a total of 48 hours, at which time the patches are removed and read. Although the patches are removed at this time, many of the substances may take five to seven days to produce a response. For this reason, the patient must return for a final visit the following week, at which point the allergy substances are identified and discussed.
Frequently asked Questions
Do I need a referral to come to this clinic?Yes. Because patch testing is a very extensive process we require that you see a general dermatologist or primary care physician prior to making an appointment.
Who should I call to make an appointment?Once your doctor has sent us your information, please call our Contact Dermatology Line: 503-494-6442 and request an appointment in the Contact Clinic.
What should I bring to my appointment?When you come for your first visit please bring the questionnaire we have sent you and all of the products you use/have used on the area of your skin where you have dermatitis. Keep in mind that a contact allergy often takes a number of days to react, so substances you contacted within the week prior to your reaction are still suspect.
I have been using the same products for years, are these products still suspect?Yes. An allergy is an acquired sensitivity. This means that the products that you have been using for a very long time are just as suspect if not more suspect than products that you just recently brought into your life.
Can I shower with the patches on?No. Unfortunately you cannot get your back wet during the entire week of patch testing. Options for washing include a shallow bath and/or washing your hair in a sink. It is very important that you do not get the site of the patches wet. Similarly, you should avoid any activities which could result in heavy sweating.
Are there any medications I should avoid taking while being patch tested?Yes. In order to achieve reliable results you cannot have received any steroid injections (Ex: Kenalog) within one month of your patches being placed. Additionally, you cannot take any oral steroids (Ex: prednisone, cyclosporine) within one week of the patches being placed. If you are unsure if a medication you are taking falls under one of these categories, please call and ask.
What happens if I have a positive reaction to a substance?The average positive reaction is about half the size of a dime, and is typically red and somewhat itchy. People often compare it to hard-to-reach mosquito bite. If a strong reaction occurs, you will be given instructions on how to remove the patch.
Patricia Norris, M.D.