The skin is the body’s largest organ. It protects the body from harmful microorganisms, prevents too much water loss, and regulates the body’s temperature. Since the skin is constantly exposed to the elements, it can become vulnerable to certain conditions. Skin allergies are a prevalent condition that occurs when the immune system reacts to a harmless substance that comes in contact with the skin. In this article, we describe the different types of skin allergies and how to prevent and treat them.
Types of Skin Allergies
Usually, you’ll be able to spot a skin allergy based on changes in the texture and appearance of your skin. However, it can be tricky to distinguish between the different types of skin allergies out there. Here are the most common types of skin allergies and all you need to know about them.
Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is caused by a specific gene variation that causes the skin to be more sensitive to certain substances. This means that atopic dermatitis usually starts during childhood or infancy. Eczema can also have episodes wherein it flares up, only to subside and then flare up again after some time has passed.
People with eczema usually suffer from a red rash that’s itchy. The rash can also be dry and scaly to the touch. Other symptoms include:
- A cluster of raised bumps that ooze clear fluid
- Rashes inside the back of the knees and crooks of the elbows, ankles and wrists, upper chest, neck, and the face.
- Itchiness that worsens at night.
Diagnosis of eczema involves a number of tests and examinations, such as:
Patterns in medical history. Your doctor will ask about the different types of food you eat and the places you go to. These can help them identify possible eczema triggers.
Skin and blood tests. Tests such as buccal swabs, skin biopsies, and blood tests can give clues about the allergens that you may be reacting to.
Urticaria, a.k.a. hives, is a skin allergy that comes with the development of red or flesh-colored wheals on the skin. The two main types of urticaria are acute or chronic hives. Acute urticaria is when the wheals appear and disappear on the skin for short periods of time, while chronic urticaria is when hives that stay on the skin for more than six weeks.
Doctors are unsure about why some cases of urticaria can last for just a few hours, while some last for months. However, research has shown that urticaria is a result of the immune system’s response to a particular allergen. Other triggers of a hives flare-up are the scratching, alcohol, heat or sunlight, stress, exercise, and certain pain medications.
Hives are different from insect bites, although they are similar in appearance. You’ll be able to distinguish a simple insect bite from hives if you are also experiencing the following symptoms:
- Wheals that are red or the same color as your skin on anywhere in the body. These can move around different parts of the skin, change shape, or even re-occur.
- Wheals that are itchy.
One way to check if a bump or patch of skin is from hives is to see if that spot of skin ‘blanches.’ To do this, press the center of the spot. If it turns white, then it’s most probably urticaria.
A doctor will be able to spot a case of hives usually based on appearance alone. However, it can be tricky to determine the exact cause of flare-ups. Your doctor or allergist may examine your medical history, the types of food you usually eat, and the places your house and workplace are located. Skin swabs can also help determine the causes of flare-ups.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Allergic contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that occurs when a particular allergen comes into direct contact with the skin. Copper and acrylate allergies are the most common ones associated with allergic contact dermatitis. Other common allergens that can cause allergic contact dermatitis are balsam of Peru, plants like mango or poison ivy, and formaldehyde.
Unlike atopic dermatitis, a reaction from contact dermatitis is more painful than itchy. Other symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis are:
- Swelling or a burning sensation on that specific spot of the skin
- Rashes that usually appear on the part of the body that touched a certain allergen
- Blisters and bumps that can sometimes ooze clear liquid
- Scaly and dry skin
Doctors will be able to diagnose allergic contact dermatitis with a physical examination and an individual’s medical history. Your doctor may also ask about how much sun you get everyday, the environment where your house or workplace is located, and the products you use on your skin.
An open application test can also help confirm a diagnosis. This involves applying a certain product on the skin and seeing if that particular product is causing the reaction.
Understanding the types of skin allergies and triggers is essential in determining the treatment you need. Sometimes, avoiding a certain allergen can clear up the skin allergy for good.
Another course of treatment is to use creams or ointments for allergies. For sudden reactions, it can be effective to use antihistamines. These are medications that can stop an allergic reaction from worsening.
Preventing Allergic Reactions
Preventing skin allergies from happening again in the future is easier than you think. Try incorporating the following tips in your daily life:
- Always be mindful of what you eat, drink, smell, or touch. Try your best to avoid things that trigger your allergies.
- If you’re unsure of what particular allergens you’re sensitive to, try keeping a diary where you list down your activities and meals for the day.
- Try to keep your skin clean at all times. Use gentle and fragrance free soaps and moisturizers.
Skin allergies can be annoying, especially if they happen again and again. Knowing what are the types of skin allergies is important in preventing and treating these allergic reactions. If a rash persists, consult your doctor.
Learn more about Skin Health here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.