When your skin comes into contact with something you are allergic to or sensitive to, your immune system will immediately go to work trying to protect you. It will send antibodies to the area to attack the invader known as an allergen. The result is usually an itchy rash in the location where the substance came in contact with your skin. This in simple terms is a skin allergy.
Doctors refer to this as contact dermatitis, and there are two main types, irritant contact dermatitis, and allergic contact dermatitis. Skin allergies are usually a result of allergic contact dermatitis as this is when your body reacts to an allergic trigger.
What Causes Skin Allergies?
Skin allergies are very interesting. You can go your whole life without having an allergic reaction to something and then out of nowhere, all of a sudden you’re allergic. Once you develop an allergy, all it takes is a few minutes before you will have a reaction.
Here are a few of the most causes of skin allergies:
~ Nickel – Nickel is a metal found in jewelry, lotions, shampoos, soaps and jeans.
If you notice you have a reaction when using these products, it may be due to nickel.
~ Bug Sprays
~ Medications – If you use anti-itch creams or antibiotics they can cause skin allergies.
~ Perfumes and other fragrances
~ Plants such as poison ivy
~ Latex found in balloons, plastic gloves, and condoms
~ Various cleaning products
Two Most Common Forms Of Skin Allergies
Hives can appear anywhere on your body. They are red, itchy and very annoying. Generally speaking, hives are acute and will only last a few days. However, in some cases, they may be considered chronic and can last for several months. If you can identify the cause of hives, do your best to avoid it. Food, drugs, insect bites and infections can lead to hives. Hives can also be caused by other factors such as exercise, sunlight, and heat.
Dermatitis is the inflammation of the skin. It produces a rash that is red, scaly and itchy. There are two main types of dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis which is known as eczema and contact dermatitis which we briefly discussed above.
How To Treat Skin Allergies
When it comes to treating skin allergies, your best line of defense is to try and prevent it from happening in the first place. Pay close attention to what causes you to have a reaction. In some cases, you may need to wear some sort of protection to cover your skin.
In the event you do have a reaction, never, under any circumstances, scratch the affected area. Doing so will only make things worse. Generally speaking an over the counter product such as Hydrocortisone cream and calamine lotion will help with the swelling and itching. Cold compresses and oatmeal baths can also relieve some of the symptoms.
If your symptoms are severe, try using a damp dressing. You will need something made of a soft cotton for this to work. A long sleeve t-shirt is a great option. Soak the shirt in water, wring it out and then gently place it on the affected area. Put something over it to help keep it in place.
You want it snug but not too tight as that will irritate the rash. If a few days pass and things aren’t getting any better, make an appointment with your doctor to have it checked out. He or she will be able to prescribe a stronger medication such as corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are useful for sumac, poison ivy, and oak allergic reactions.
Generally speaking skin allergy symptoms such as itching, swelling and redness will go away on their own after a week or two. While your body is healing itself, use some of the remedies mentioned above to keep yourself comfortable.
Finding Out What You Are Allergic To
Finding the exact cause of an allergic reaction can be extremely difficult. While skin tests can shed some light on what you are sensitive to, they can’t pinpoint the exact cause of the reaction. For better results, doctors will often use the TRUE test. The TRUE test is a pre-packaged set of panels that will be placed on your back.
There are three panels, and each one has 12 patches. Each patch has a sample of a possible allergen. You will be required to wear the panels for up to 2 days. The doctor will then take them off and see if you had a reaction to any of the allergens. Depending on the results of the TRUE test the doctor may order even more tests to confirm or rule out various allergens or sensitivities.