Skin allergies are widespread, accounting for more than 5.7 million doctor visits annually. Redness, itchiness, and hives might all point towards a possible skin allergy, however, irritation can be caused by many factors. If you are experiencing a mysterious rash or skin irritation, it’s important to have an evaluation with one of our Houston Skin board-certified dermatologists or skin care experts to determine the cause and which medical dermatology treatments can give you relief.
Read below for more information on common skin allergies and the effective treatments we use at Houston Skin.
What Causes Skin Allergies?
What makes skin allergies so mysterious is that they can be caused by a wide range of factors and triggers including foods, certain medications, sensitivity to cosmetics and body care products, fragrances, laundry detergents, pet dander, pollutants, plants, pollen and even stress. There is even a genetic component where people who have a family member with skin allergies are more likely to also develop similar allergies.
What makes skin allergies so problematic is they also can cause a wide array of symptoms that can also vary from person to person. Some of the most common symptoms of skin allergies include:
- Hives or welts
- Oozing or weeping
In addition to these symptoms, sometimes skin allergies are also accompanied by a respiratory component, where a person experiences coughing, sneezing or even wheezing. For example, angioedema is an allergic reaction similar to hives that can affect the eyes as well as the throat and mouth, which can cause difficulty breathing.
Skin Allergy Treatment
Treating a skin allergy depends on identifying the correct allergen first. It’s important to seek an evaluation with one of our medical dermatologists at Houston Skin if you’re experiencing an allergic reaction to help detect what is triggering your reaction.
Usually, avoidance of the trigger is recommended in order to circumvent future negative reactions. However, when complete avoidance isn’t possible, there are specific treatments our practitioners will recommend to both manage and improve symptoms. For example, some topical creams and ointments can help relieve itching and inflammation.
In some cases, with allergies that cause a systemic reaction, oral medications may be needed to get improvement. Most often, a combination approach of topical and oral treatments offers our patients the best long-term outcomes for managing their skin allergies. Allergy shots can also be useful in managing allergy symptoms.
Some of the most common skin allergies include:
ALLERGIC CONTACT DERMATITIS
The most common type of skin allergy is contact dermatitis which occurs when your skin comes into direct contact with an allergen. Plants like poison ivy and poison oak can cause allergic contact dermatitis and the formation of a red, itchy rash. In this case, the allergic reaction comes from touching the oily coating that covers the plant’s leaves. Contact dermatitis can also be caused by touching certain clothing fibers, pets or even jewelry that is made from particular metals, like nickel.
ATOPIC DERMATITIS (ECZEMA)
Atopic dermatitis is often linked to asthma, hay fever or food allergies. It is one of the most common skin conditions, affecting both children and adults. Currently, about 17.8 million people suffer from atopic dermatitis which often appears as a red, itchy rash normally on the cheeks, arms, and legs.
Hives are an uncomfortable and sometimes painful allergy that occurs when the immune system is triggered to release histamine, which results in swelling of the skin. Hives have many causes including particular foods, heat, exercise, certain medications, insect bites or infections. While hives can cause discomfort, they are not contagious and are generally not dangerous.
Angioedema is another type of skin allergy that causes swelling in the deep layers of the skin. People that have angioedema may also often suffer from hives. Angioedema most commonly occurs in the soft tissues of the body, such as the eyelids, mouth or even genitals.
There are two types of angioedema: acute and chronic. Angioedema is considered an acute condition when it lasts a short time (from a few minutes to several hours). Most often acute angioedema is caused by an allergic reaction to certain foods or medications. The condition is considered chronic and recurrent if the angioedema recurs over a long period of time. In chronic cases, it is difficult to determine the trigger.