What Is a Skin Allergy?

A skin reaction caused by contact with an allergy-causing substance (allergen) that the skin is hypersensitive or allergic to. The skin reaction can involve swelling, itching, burning, redness or blisters.

Types of Skin Allergies

  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a scaly, itchy rash that often affects the face, elbows and knees.
  • Contact dermatitis. When certain substances come into contact with your skin, they may cause a rash called contact dermatitis. The longer your skin is in contact with the substance, or the stronger the substance is, the more severe your reaction will be.
  • Urticaria (hives) are red, itchy, raised areas of the skin that 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.
  • Angiodema, while related to hives, 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.

Causes of Skin Allergies
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.

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.
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.

Treatments for Skin allergies

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.

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.