Are Allergies Affecting My Skin?

A Healthier Michigan

| 3 min read

When the body encounters allergens or foreign substances that trigger an immune response, it is known as an allergic reaction. The immune response that is triggered can affect the skin, manifesting as irritation, redness, scaliness, hives, swelling, and more. If you are noticing symptoms of an allergic reaction but aren’t sure what it may be, a consult with your primary care provider can help to determine the cause.

How do allergies affect skin?

Depending on the cause and severity of the allergy, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, skin allergy reactions can include:
  • Hives, or swollen, irritated bumps, welts or patches 
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Eczema
When these symptoms show up quickly and last a short while – less than two weeks -- it is likely an acute case and the result of an allergic reaction. Chronic struggles with hives, eczema, or contact dermatitis might signal a skin condition or other underlying causes according to the ACAAI.

What is contact dermatitis?

When the skin encounters an allergen by touch and breaks out as a result, it is likely contact dermatitis. The symptoms of contact dermatitis generally include:
  • rash or redness
  • blisters
  • itching and irritation
Some of the most common irritants or allergens that trigger contact dermatitis include:
  • soaps and lotions
  • shampoos and conditioners
  • laundry detergent and fabric softeners
  • latex
  • nickel
The symptoms or signs of contact dermatitis don’t always show immediately; they make take some time to manifest or may only present if affected by sunlight, according to the ACAAI. Contact dermatitis can be treated by avoiding the allergens and with medication or topical solutions if needed.

What is eczema?

Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis. This differs from contact dermatitis because it is not brought on by direct contact with the skin. Common symptoms of eczema include:
  • redness and irritation
  • warmth and itching
  • fluid-filled bumps or blisters
According to the Cleveland Clinic, these symptoms are most often found in these areas of the body:
  • hands and elbows
  • ankles, knees and feet
  • face, especially cheeks, ears and lips
Eczema can be more prone to infection and is more likely to present in families with a history of allergies or allergic issues, to the ACAAI. Eczema is a chronic condition. Patients with eczema are also more likely to develop other allergies later, especially hay fever, asthma and food allergies, according to the Mayo Clinic. Having these allergies also can increase the amount of eczema flares and breakouts of eczema symptoms, according to the National Eczema Association.

What to do for skin irritated by allergies

If you are experiencing symptoms of contact dermatitis, eczema, or any symptom on your skin you think might be an allergic reaction, you should check with your care team. There are a variety of skin allergy tests including patch tests, scratch tests, and more that can help determine what the offending allergen may be. Some treatments that are commonly used to treat contact dermatitis, hives, eczema, and allergies include:
  • steroid creams or ointments
  • anti-itching creams or ointments
  • medications in pill form
  • biologics or other injected medications
  • identification and avoidance of allergens
Speak with your primary care provider (PCP) before trying any of these treatments, as individuals react differently to treatment methods.
Image credit: Getty Images

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