Most Common skin allergies people are bothered by skin irritations at some point in time. These irritations are so common and varied that they are called by different names, which can lead to confusion. When an allergen is responsible for triggering an immune system response, the irritation is an allergic skin condition.There is several types of allergic skin conditions. An allergist / immunologist, often referred to as an allergist, has advanced training and expertise to determine which condition you have and develop a treatment plan to help you feel better.
Hives and Angioedema: Urticaria is the medical term for hives, which are red, itchy, raised areas of the skin. They can range in size and appear anywhere on your body. Most cases of hives are known as acute and go away within a few days or weeks, but some people suffer from chronic hives with symptoms that come and go for several months or years. Your allergist may prescribe antihistamines to relieve your symptoms. If the cause can be identified, you should avoid that trigger.
However, the majority of chronic cases are not related to allergy. Routine testing, such as blood counts or allergy screens, are not recommended as they are unlikely to determine a cause and do not make a difference in treatment strategies.
While related to hives, angioedema is swelling that affects the deeper layers of the skin. It is usually not red or itchy and often involves the eyelids, lips, tongue, hands and feet. Angioedema commonly occurs with hives, but can occur on its own.
Food, drug or insect sting reactions are a common cause of acute hives and angioedema. Viral or bacterial infections can also trigger acute hives. Hives can also be caused by physical factors such as cold, heat, exercise, pressure and exposure to sunlight.
Dermatitis: An inflammation of the skin that produces a red, scaly, itchy rash is known as dermatitis. Two of the most common types are atopic dermatitis (often called eczema) and contact dermatitis.
Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema): Eczema is a chronic skin condition that usually begins in infancy or early childhood and is often associated with food allergy, allergic rhinitis and asthma.
Certain foods can trigger eczema, especially in young children. Skin staph infections can cause flare-ups in children as well. Other potential triggers include animal dander, dust mites, sweating, or contact with irritants like wool or soaps.
Preventing the itch is the main goal of treatment. Do not scratch or rub the rash. Applying cold compresses and creams or ointments is helpful. It is important to avoid all irritants that aggravate your condition. If a food is identified as the cause, eliminate it from your diet.
Corticosteroid and other anti-inflammatory creams that are applied to the skin are most effective in treating the rash. Antihistamines are often recommended to help relieve the itchiness. In severe cases, oral corticosteroids are also prescribed. If a skin staph infection is suspected to be a trigger for an eczema flare-up, antibiotics are often recommended.
Contact Dermatitis: When certain substances come into contact with your skin, they may cause a rash called contact dermatitis. There are two kinds of contact dermatitis: irritant and allergic.
Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when a substance damages the part of skin the substance comes in contact with. It is often more painful than itchy. The longer your skin is in contact with the substance, or the stronger the substance is, the more severe your reaction will be. These reactions appear most often on the hands and are frequently due to substances contacted in the workplace.
For irritant contact dermatitis, avoid the substance causing the reaction. Wearing gloves can sometimes be helpful. Avoiding the substance will relieve your symptoms and prevent lasting damage to your skin.
Allergic contact dermatitis is best known by the itchy, red, blistered reaction experienced after you touch poison ivy. This allergic reaction is caused by a chemical in the plant called urushiol. Reactions can happen from touching other items the plant has come into contact with. However, once your skin has been washed, you cannot get another reaction from touching the rash or blisters. Allergic contact dermatitis reactions can happen 24 to 48 hours after contact. Once a reaction starts, it may take 14 to 28 days to go away, even with treatment. Nickel, perfumes, dyes, rubber (latex) products and cosmetics also frequently cause allergic contact dermatitis. Some ingredients in medications applied to the skin can cause a reaction. A common offender is neomycin, an ingredient in antibiotic creams.
Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. Cold soaks and compresses can offer relief for the early, itchy blistered stage of a rash. Topical corticosteroid creams may be prescribed. For severe reactions such as poison ivy, oral prednisone may be prescribed as well.
To prevent the reaction from returning, avoid contact with the offending substance. If you and your allergist cannot determine what caused the reaction, your allergist may conduct tests to help identify it.
• If you have red, bumpy, scaly, itchy or swollen skin, you may have a skin allergy.
• Urticaria (hives) are red, itchy, raised areas of the skin that can range in size and appear anywhere on your body. Angioedema is a swelling of the deeper layers of the skin that often occurs with hives.
• Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a scaly, itchy rash that often affects the face, elbows and knees.
• When certain substances come into contact with your skin, they may cause a rash called contact dermatitis.
Feel Better. Live Better: An allergist / immunologist, often referred to as an allergist, is a pediatrician or internist with at least two additional years of specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma, immune deficiencies and other immunologic diseases. By visiting the office of an allergist, you can expect an accurate diagnosis, a treatment plan that works and educational information to help you manage your disease and feel better.
Red, Itchy Rash?
You’ve probably had a rash at some point or another, whether from poison ivy or the chickenpox or something more unusual. Why does your skin break out in red blotches like that? More important, is there anything you can do about it?
We often think of the skin as a barrier—it keeps the insides of our bodies in, and it keeps the outside world out. But our skin is also filled with special cells of the immune system. These cells protect the skin and body against viruses, bacteria and other threats. Whenever these cells detect a suspicious substance, they begin a chain reaction in the skin that leads to inflammation. The medical name for this reaction is dermatitis. But it’s more commonly known as a rash.
There are many different types of dermatitis, and each has a distinct set of treatments. Sometimes the skin’s immune cells react to something that directly touches the skin. Other times, the immune system flares in the skin because of a whole-body infection or illness.
The symptoms of these different types of rashes often overlap. “Itching is a common symptom for all these problems,” says Dr. Stephen I. Katz, director of NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Many rashes are red, painful, and irritated. Some types of rash can also lead to blisters or patches of raw skin. While most rashes clear up fairly quickly, others are long lasting and need to be cared for over long periods of time.
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a dry, red, itchy rash that affects up to 1 in 5 infants and young children. It often improves over time, although it can last into adulthood or start later in life. In this condition, the water-tight barrier between skin cells gets weak, which lets moisture out and other things in. That’s why people with atopic dermatitis have to moisturize their skin, and they’re more susceptible to skin infections.
Researchers have recently identified specific genes that are involved in maintaining the skin barrier. People with certain versions of these genes are more likely to get atopic dermatitis.
“The skin is the outermost sentinel for fighting off bacteria and noxious agents,” says Katz. “If the barrier is broken somehow, you can become more allergic to things.”
Common skin allergies
A skin allergy, or allergic contact dermatitis, produces a red, itchy rash that sometimes comes with small blisters or bumps. The rash arises when the skin comes in contact with an allergen, a usually harmless substance that the immune system attacks. Allergens trigger allergic reactions. Allergens can come from certain soaps, creams and even pets.
Your immune system might not react the first time you encounter an allergen. But over time, your immune system can become sensitive to the substance. As a result, your next contact may lead to inflammation and an allergic rash.
“The most common form of dermatitis that is seen anywhere is an allergic contact dermatitis to nickel,” says Katz. “Why? Because of ear piercing.” Many inexpensive earrings are made of nickel, and over time, wearing nickel earrings can cause an allergic reaction to the metal.
Other common causes of allergic dermatitis are poison oak and poison ivy. The stems and leaves of these plants produce a chemical that’s likely to cause allergies. If you touch one of them, wash your skin as soon as possible. The chemical can also remain in clothing for a long time, so it’s important to wash any clothes or shoes—or even pets—that come into contact with these plants.
Mild cases of allergic contact dermatitis usually disappear after a few days or weeks. But if the rash persists, is extremely uncomfortable or occurs on the face, it’s important to see a physician. A doctor can prescribe medications that will tone down the immune reaction in the skin. This eases swelling and itching and will protect your eyes and face.
The immune cells of the skin can also produce rashes when they react to invading germs—like bacteria, fungi and viruses. Bacterial and viral infections within your body can cause your skin to break out in spots as well. The chickenpox virus, for example, can cause itchy spots in children. Years later, in older adults, the same virus may reappear as shingles, bringing a painful rash and high fever. Vaccines can prevent several rash-causing diseases, including chickenpox, shingles and measles.
Certain drugs, including antibiotics like amoxicillin, may also cause itchy skin rashes. If you’re allergic to a drug, a rash can be the first sign of a serious reaction. As with other allergies, a reaction to a drug may not occur the first time you take it. It could show up after several uses. Not all drug rashes are due to an allergy, however. If you break out in itchy spots after starting a new drug prescription, contact your doctor right away.
While most rashes get better with time, some can last a lifetime. Psoriasis, a condition where skin cells build up into thick red patches, tends to run in families. “It’s a complex genetic disease, in that there’s not one gene that causes psoriasis but many,” says Katz. Even though none of these genes alone has a great effect on the disease, knowing which genes are involved can help researchers design potential new treatments. Other long-term diseases that can produce rashes include autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, and some forms of cancer.
If you notice an itchy or painful rash on your skin, think twice before going to the drugstore and getting some cream if you don’t know the cause. “The creams that you buy can produce problems that make your original problem even worse,” Katz says. Because rashes can be caused by many different things—bacteria, viruses, drugs, allergies, genetic disorders, and even light—it’s important to figure out what kind of dermatitis you have.
“If you have any significant rash, you should see a dermatologist,” says Katz. A dermatologist, or skin doctor, is specially trained to figure out what’s causing a rash and help you get the right treatment.
Your skin is your protection. It’s not just the covering that keeps your body in; it’s also your first line of defense against germs and chemicals. Take care of your skin so your skin can take care of you.