What are Skin Allergies?
Skin allergies may include the following symptoms: a rash or hives, or swelling, itching, and cracking of the skin. Our skin comes in contact with hundreds of potential allergic response substances every day. The most common sites are the hands, arms, face and neck, but no part of your anatomy is immune. A skin reaction that is the result of contact with an allergen is called allergic contact dermatitis. By contrast, a skin reaction caused by contact with a substance that is harsh or caustic is called irritant contact dermatitis and does not involve allergies or the immune system.)
If the causative agent is known, usually simply avoiding contact provides its own solution. Intense itching or swelling may require immediate medical intervention and is always required if swelling occurs in the mouth or tongue as further swelling in the throat may lead to obstructed breathing.
Some food allergies manifest on the skin and can produce hives or itching and some medications may cause itching.
Allergic skin reactions are at best annoying and at worst a serious problem when they become overly painful, blistered or result in scratching which breaks the skin. Some children cannot control the urge to scratch and may break the skin allowing for infection.
Discovering the skin allergy culprit
Many allergens leave a trail to follow. The location of the rash, hives, or itch will help you to put the suspects in a lineup for your own detective work.
For example, let’s say your ears itch. What comes in contact with them? Earplugs, headphones, earrings, perfumes, hair products, and lotions might be major suspects.
How about a rash that develops under your arms? The possible causes: lotion, deodorant/antiperspirant, elastic straps in clothes, a bra’s underwire, new fabrics, etc. Like so much in the allergy world, a little observation can go a long way toward discovering what is irritating you.
Pinpointing and avoiding contact with the allergen is the primary treatment for allergic contact dermatitis. However, if the rash spreads or if you develop hives or experience uncontrollable itching and the skin becomes red, tender, and damaged, see your physician.
Have you read the ingredient list on the back of your favorite fragrance bottle? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require fragrance manufacturers to list ingredients or secret formulas on the label. You may smell sweet, but your skin may also suffer from potentially irritating chemicals. If you develop a rash of unknown cause, one of the first substances you should suspect — and stop using — is perfume.
Is it Eczema?
Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a kind of skin allergy, but it is of mysterious origin.
Symptoms include red, itchy, dry, scaly patches most frequently on the face, arms, legs, and scalp. Infants and children are particularly susceptible to eczema, but the vast majority of children who have eczema outgrow it. It’s clear that there’s a connection between eczema and allergies, since 70 percent of those who have this skin condition have a family history of allergies or asthma. And one-third of those with eczema eventually will develop allergic rhinitis or asthma.
There is no cure for eczema. The best preventive measures are to moisturize your skin so it doesn’t dry out and to pinpoint and avoid substances that seem to irritate your skin or trigger the rash. Additionally, topical medications containing steroids can help control itching, as can oral antihistamines.