What Are Skin Allergies?
Rashes and skin irritations can occur for a number of reasons. Skin allergies happen because the body's immune system overreacts to something that is normally harmless. Clinically speaking, there are a few different conditions that are categorized as skin allergies. They include:
- Eczema. Also called atopic dermatitis, eczema is a common skin condition among children, though adults can develop it as well. This type of skin allergy may be inherited and may get triggered by a variety of environmental factors, including dry air, cold air, and certain soaps or foods.
- Contact dermatitis. This type of allergic reaction occurs in response to an offending substance, such as nickel or poison ivy.
- Urticaria. Your allergic reaction to a substance or food may involve hives. Hives can be significant bumps and swelling on the skin. Called welts, these red bumps are caused by histamine release in the body.
- Angioedema is an allergic skin reaction that occurs in the deep layers of the skin. Angioedema may develop on the lips or eyelids or in the throat, and may coincide with hives.
What Are the Symptoms?
A reaction may cause redness and swelling, burning, stinging, itching, or blisters. Most of the reactions caused by skin products occur on the face, hands, and body. Skin allergies may show up in a wide variety of ways. The symptoms that you notice will relate to the condition that's causing them. For example, if you have eczema, you may experience areas of skin that are dry, red, scaly, and itchy or painful. The most common places for this to occur are the knees, elbows, and face. In addition to causing redness and a rash, a skin allergy may also cause blisters and pain. In the case of angioedema, swelling in the throat can make it difficult to breathe. For this reason, it is necessary to receive prompt medical attention for this more severe skin allergy.
What Causes Skin Allergies?
Products and triggers that often cause problems include:
- Hair dyes and permanent solutions
- Metals, such as nickel
- Fragrances in perfumes
- Preservatives and household products
- Latex (rubber)
- Bath powders
- Poisonous plants, such as poison ivy
Directly, a skin allergy is caused by a reaction in your immune system. What triggers the inflammation and itching or pain may differ for each person. In the case of eczema, studies indicate that this condition may be caused by a faulty gene that causes the skin's protective barrier to dry out too quickly. This makes the skin more susceptible to inflammation due to environmental factors.
As it sounds, contact dermatitis is a reaction to a substance that has touched the skin. In the case of poison ivy, symptoms may occur even if you've not directly touched the plant itself. If you touch something or someone that has, the oil from the plant may get on your skin. Urticaria is most often related to a food allergy, but may also result from overheating, medication, or insect bites. Angioedema usually coincides with urticaria so has the same or similar causes.
Why Do Some People Have Skin Allergies and Others Do Not?
An allergic reaction happens when the immune system has an unusual reaction to a harmless substance. The job of immune system cells is to find foreign substances, such as viruses and bacteria, and get rid of them. Normally, this response protects us from dangerous diseases. People with skin allergies have over-sensitive immune systems.
What Are the Treatment Options for Skin Allergies?
Skin allergies may require a multi-pronged approach to resolve active irritation and prevent further inflammation. The first aspect of skin allergy treatment is to avoid known allergens. If your skin allergy is chronic, it is likely that you know exactly what causes flare-ups. If irritation has occurred, it is important to avoid scrubbing, rubbing, and scratching the skin. Your doctor may advise you to apply moisturizer or topical medication to the irritation up to several times a day and to avoid excessive heat and hot water. In the case of acute skin allergy flare-ups, it may be necessary to take an anti-histamine medication. Before taking this type of medication, talk to your doctor. Anti-histamines do not work on all types of skin allergies. In the case of chronic skin allergies, a doctor may prescribe medication to help reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups.
Are Skin Allergies Dangerous?
In most cases, skin allergies are not considered dangerous. Your doctor may perform a full assessment of your general health and allergic responses you've been experiencing to ensure that your risk of serious reactions is understood. Allergies that affect the airway may require emergency medical care. Though not extraordinarily dangerous, skin allergies that cause blisters that open and break the skin do pose a slight risk of infection, so must be handled well.
If you believe you may have skin allergies or if you are looking for a dermatology practice that specializes in skin allergy diagnosis and treatment, please use the form on this page to schedule a consultation at Hollywood Dermatology or visit our contact page for information about our South Florida locations.