Skin allergies can range from inconvenient to painful, and are dealt with by many people who suffer from other allergy types as well. These allergies can vary widely and exhibit different types of symptoms, so it is important to know what to expect. Additionally, some non-allergic conditions may display similar symptoms.
We’ll go through a variety of information related to skin allergies, such as common symptoms and treatment options, so you can know what to expect during allergy season.
What Are Skin Allergies?
Skin allergies function in a way that is similar to any other allergy but simply affect the skin. There are several unique features that skin allergies have, which we will get into in detail later. However, the fundamental principle is the same.
When someone has skin allergies, their immune system is over-sensitive in a way that causes the skin to react with itchiness, swelling or pain. People can experience allergic reactions in their skin from many of the same irritants that affect their respiratory system or eyes. Skin rashes can exhibit a variety of symptoms, from hives to dry or puffy skin.
The main symptoms of skin allergies include red bumps, hives and scaly texture, and is often accompanied by itchiness. Some skin allergies may also involve angioedema. This refers to swelling in deeper layers of the skin, which may be less visible. Symptoms may arise along with other types of allergy symptoms like sinus congestion or on their own.
Symptoms will usually only appear when the skin comes into direct contact with an allergen. This could be from natural irritants like pollen, or synthetic ones such as chemicals found in cosmetics.
What Are the Causes of Skin Allergies?
Skin allergies can be caused by a variety of irritants. In many cases, skin responds to similar irritants that also cause respiratory allergies. This can include things like pollen, animal dander and chemicals found in cosmetics.
However, the most common skin allergies are things that usually won’t cause any other type of allergy. This includes materials such as latex and nickel, which is often found in jewelry.
Is Eczema a Skin Allergy?
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, exhibits many of the same symptoms as skin allergies. It is also associated with the development of certain food allergies, so the conditions may seem linked.
There are different types of eczema, and it is sometimes difficult to ascertain whether it is itself an allergy or an allergy-related illness. Flare-ups of food allergies or contact with irritants can exacerbate eczema symptoms. However, eczema is primarily caused by a certain genetic variation, so it is a bit more complex than other allergies.
How Do You Treat Skin Allergies?
Skin allergies can be treated in many ways depending on the symptoms. The first step to finding a recommended treatment plan is visiting a board-certified allergist to discuss allergy testing. There are a couple of test options available for those suffering with skin allergies. Your board-certified allergists will likely talk with you about skin tests and patch tests.
Skin tests are performed by inserting a small drop of the suspected allergen just under the surface of the skin. Many suspected allergens can be tested at the same time in this way and results become available within minutes. It’s fast and relatively pain-free.
Patch testing is available for patients experiencing contact dermatitis, or a reaction when the patient comes into contact with a material that irritates their skin. Hypoallergenic patches containing individual allergens are applied to the patient’s back for 48 hours. The patches are read and the patient will be scheduled to review results with their allergist afterward.
Once allergy testing is performed, your board-certified allergist will provide a treatment recommendation. This can include immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots), which aims to fully target the root of the skin allergy.
There are a variety of medications available for those suffering with skin allergies, ranging from ointments to oral antihistamines. Some non-medical approaches can help alleviate symptoms as well. Cold compresses and oatmeal baths can sometimes help with burning pain and swelling, although their efficacy will vary. Your board-certified allergist will be able to recommend a treatment option that works best for you.
Using Avoidance for Skin Allergies
If you have an allergy to something that you can avoid more easily, like nickel, then avoidance is your best option. In some cases, you may have to choose the lesser discomfort of long sleeves over the greater discomfort of exposing your skin to allergens.
A big nuisance associated with skin allergies is that in some cases, you won’t be able to tell what you are allergic to. In this case, your best bet is to visit a board-certified allergist. They will be able to help you find out exactly what you react to, as well as how to best treat it.
Key Things to Remember About Skin Allergies
If you have skin allergy symptoms, then finding out the triggers should be a top priority. This shouldn’t be done alone — an allergy test given by a board-certified allergist is the way to go. Different treatment options target different types of symptoms, so make sure you get some advice about how to approach your symptoms before you begin a treatment regimen.
Learn more about your symptoms and consult with one of our board-certified allergists by scheduling an appointment today.