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Skin Allergies

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The skin is the largest organ of the human body. It is therefore understood, that, the skin will be prone to many health problems. Of these problems, allergies are one of the most common complaints. There are different allergens and irritants that triggers the immune system to act defensively and lead to many allergic conditions.

There are different types of skin allergies, and your doctor or allergist will help you treat your specific condition. In this article, we shall look at some of the common skin allergies.

What are Skin Allergies?

Skin allergy is a condition that occurs when an irritant comes in contact with a sensitive or allergic skin. Over 80% of skin allergies are caused after an irritant comes in direct contact with the skin. The rest of the allergies are caused by ingestion of food, inhalation of allergens or reaction to medications.

Types of Skin Allergy

There are different types of skin allergies. We shall cover some of the common skin allergies in the following paragraphs.


Hives or medically known urticaria is a condition where you will observe red, itchy and raised areas on the skin. They may even cause a burning or stinging sensation. Hives can appear anywhere on the body, and vary in size. These rashes occur in the upper dermis layer of the skin. Hives usually last for a few hours to days before subsiding. In some cases, it turns into a chronic condition that lasts for many months or years.

Causes of Hives

The exact cause is unknown. But they are mostly associated with severe allergic reactions. Chronic idiopathic urticaria is caused by an autoimmune reaction. Other causes include:

  • Friction
  • Temperature changes
  • Sunlight
  • Exercise
  • Acute viral infection


Also called a Quincke’s edema, it leads to sudden, quick swelling of the skin that includes the dermis, subcutaneous tissue, mucosa as well as submucosal tissues. In this condition, the skin around the mouth, mucosa of the mouth, throat, tongue, etc. The swelling is so massive that it may lead to airway obstruction and suffocation. The swelling may also itch and pain.

Causes of Angiodema

Angioedema can be hereditary or acquired. In case of hereditary angioedema (HAE), it is caused by a genetic mutation. Acquired angioedema is caused either by an allergy or is usually an idiopathic condition. In most cases, peanut allergy is found to be the main cause of angioedema.


The inflammation of the skin, that is, the rash is called as dermatitis. There are different forms of dermatitis. They can be either bumpy rashes or cause dry, red, itchy skin. Some may suffer from swelling, itching, lesions, oozing and scarring of the skin. Dermatitis herpetiformis may lead to itching, stinging and burning sensation seborrheic dermatitis may cause scaling on the scalp, hair loss, pimples along the hairline, eyebrows, nose, chest, etc.


Dermatitis can occur due to a number of causes. These include irritants, allergies as well as genetic factors. Some of the common causes include:

  • Skin reaction to soaps, detergents, bleach, etc.
  • Contact with allergens like jewelry, perfumes, metal like nickel, rubber, poison ivy, etc.
  • Physical stress leading to seborrheic dermatitis
  • Vitamin B-3 deficiency

Atopic Dermatitis

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Atopic dermatits or atopic eczema causes an inflamed, itchy skin. The skin easily gets irritated and leads to itchy rash. The itch comes first, forcing one to scratch and give rise to a rash. The skin becomes red, flaky due to the constant scratches


The exact cause is not yet understood, thus, there is no cure for atopic dermatitis. However, experts believe it may be genetically inherited or affect people who suffer from histamine intolerance.

Diagnosis of Skin Allergies

One should keep in mind that not all skin rashes are due to allergies. Thus, the doctor may suggest a patch test or prick test. In this test, small amounts of common allergens are introduced into the skin. Any reaction to a certain prick will indicate allergy to that particular substance. Sometimes, a urine and blood test will also be conducted.

Treatment for Skin Allergies

Skin allergies have different treatment options available. Based on your particular allergy the doctor may suggest use of:

  • Antihistamine tablets and syrups
  • Anti-itch creams
  • Steroid creams
  • Emollient-containing lotions
  • Immunotherapy or allergy shots for long-term relief

Antibiotics, oral and topical, will help in reducing any secondary bacteria infection of the skin due to the scratching.

Skin allergies can affect any person of any age. However, it is the children who are the most affected. Thus, any unusual rash or itching should be examined by a doctor. Once the allergen or irritant is identified, one should avoid it as much as possible. Keep topical creams and lotions handy in case of a sudden skin allergy reaction. Follow your doctor’s advice carefully.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: March 15, 2015

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