Once in a while, our skin goes rogue on us.
It can become red, itchy and sometimes swollen. For no reason you know.
That’s the skin’s way of saying that it is irritated.
What is an allergy?
An allergic skin condition occurs when your skin comes in contact with an allergen.
Other times, it could be because your immune system is reacting badly to an allergen.
I guess you are wondering what an allergen is.
An allergen is any substance that is capable of triggering a response from your immune system, which later results in an allergic reaction.
Once an allergen takes effect, your skin might begin to develop a red, itchy rash.
Factors that cause skin allergies
Several factors cause allergic reactions. They include:
- Certain medications
- Nickel, a common metal ingredient found in lotions, soaps, and even jewelry
- Cleaning products like detergents
- Bug sprays
- Poison ivy, or oak
- Latex in gloves, condoms, balloons, etc.
(This is not an exhaustive list!)
Note that these factors might be harmless on their own. The only problem is they do not go well with your immune system.
How do you know what you are allergic to?
Your doctor can help you find out what you are allergic to. He/she will run some skin tests to determine what your skin is sensitive to.
You might undergo a patch test.
Your doctor or dermatologist will put a little amount of allergen on your skin and observe it for a few days to see if your skin reacts to it.
Can you prevent a skin allergy?
Yes, you can prevent a skin allergy, once you know what your body is reacting to.
Simply stay away from the allergen.
Do not touch any identified allergen, and if you do, wash the affected area as quickly as you can.
Types of skin allergies
Allergic reactions develop in various forms. Let’s take a look at some of the allergic skin conditions that can occur on your skin.
1. Atopic dermatitis
This is also known as eczema.
It is prevalent in children but can also affect adults too.
It is usually related to food allergy, allergic rhinitis or asthma.
Your skin might develop red and itchy skin patches. It can be mild or severe.
Certain foods can trigger and worsen the symptoms of eczema. Factors like animal dander and cleaning products also trigger eczema.
You should be very careful if you have eczema, because it makes you prone to having other skin infections.
How to treat eczema
In treating eczema, you first have to focus on relieving or preventing the itch. So, do not scratch the rash, no matter how itchy it is.
You should then apply cold compresses on the affected area.
Do not use or touch anything that can worsen the symptoms. Stay away from your allergen. If it is a food allergy that caused the reaction, stop eating that food.
If you’re not sure what caused the allergy, then book an appointment with your doctor.
Also, you can apply anti-inflammatory creams to help treat the rash.
Do not self-medicate. Visit your dermatologist for the right medications to use.
2. Contact dermatitis
When allergens come in direct contact with your skin, the result is contact dermatitis.
There are two kinds of contact dermatitis: the irritant and allergic contact dermatitis.
Chemicals like harsh cleaning agents are significant factors that cause irritant contact dermatitis. Usually, the substance causes damage to the part of the skin it comes in contact with.
You might experience pain as well as itching.
It can be mild or severe. It depends on how active the substance is and how long your skin stays in contact with the substance.
To treat this reaction, you need to stay away from the substance that triggered the response.
Allergic contact dermatitis, on the other hand, occurs when you come in contact with an allergen.
For example, if you are allergic to latex and you put on a glove made with latex, your skin might become red, itchy, swollen or scaly.
Poison oak or ivy, perfumes, dyes, nickel can also cause allergic contact dermatitis.
How to treat allergic contact dermatitis:
Applying a cold compress on the affected area can relieve the itching.
You can use topical corticosteroid creams, as long as your dermatologist prescribes them.
Stay away from the allergen that caused the reaction. If you do not know what caused it, see the doctor immediately.
3. Hives and Angioedema
Hives are medically known as Urticaria.
They are skin rashes that are red, inflamed and itchy. They occur when your immune systems release histamine, chemicals that make your blood vessels leak and cause swelling in your skin.
They can occur in any part of your body.
Some hives disappear within a few days or weeks, while severe ones stay for months, or even years.
Angioedema is related to hives, but it causes the deep layers of your skin to swell, and it doesn’t make your skin red or itchy. It affects the eyelids tongue, hands, and feet.
It usually occurs alongside hives, but it can also occur alone.
Bacteria and viral infections, certain medications, food, insect sting, etc. can cause hives and Angioedema.
General ways to treat skin allergies
You should note that skin allergy symptoms, such as swelling, redness or itching disappear within a week or two, even if you do not treat them.
It is only when they are severe that they last longer.
Here are ways to relieve the symptoms of allergies, before they leave finally:
- Avoid contact with whatever triggers the allergy. This instruction might seem obvious, but I cannot emphasize it enough.
- Apply a cold compress on the affected area to calm the rash. You can also take a cold bath.
- Use an anti-itch cream to relieve the itching. Make sure you ask a doctor or dermatologist for a prescription.
- Avoid fitted clothes. They can further irritate the rash. So, put on loose clothing.
- Try putting on a damp cloth. Get a loose, soft, cotton piece of clothing, soak it in water, squeeze the water out and wear it. Sounds awkward, but works wonders!
If the symptoms of your allergy do not go away after two weeks, ensure you see your doctor — it might be an indicator of a serious medical condition.
Allergic reactions should not scare you. All you need to do is follow the tips I have given above, and the symptoms will be gone before you know it.