Skin Allergies

What are allergies?

Allergy is the condition caused by the hypersensitivity of the immune system to something in the environment. Allergies are unique in a way that the cause that causes the allergies might not be the same for everyone. While they may cause little or no problem in most people, some allergies can even become fatal for some people.

What are the symptoms?

Allergies have a few symptoms that declare what type and nature they have. The allergies give off symptoms when the immune system overreacts to an allergen. An allergen is usually a harmless thing such as plant pollen, dust mites, molds, insect stings, etc. The symptoms for allergies can manifest themselves in any way, including rashes, itchiness, red eyes, runny nose, swelling etc.

Skin Allergies

When a few substances (for example, Latex) come into contact with the skin, they cause allergies or allergic reactions. Skin allergies are usually denoted by rashes, swelling or inflammation in the skin. This includes hives and angioedema. Insect stings might also cause local allergies, with skin reddening in micro patches.

Skin allergies usually last a few days at best, but can become chronic in which case may persist for years and any prolonged symptom must be shown for treatment with a trained dermatologist.

Why is it difficult to categorise allergies?

While it is practically very easy to notice allergies based upon where the symptoms appear, it is harder to affirmatively trace the allergen. Most allergies have common causes, but sometimes, the level of tolerance varies and this makes the diagnosis and consequent treatment of allergies a difficult task.

Symptoms like bumps, itching, redness and other indicators for allergies might appear on the skin and stay for days, sometime even longer than that, without the cause being apparent. The cause may not be as easily identifiable as the affected area. Rashes, for instance, can have many causes, including plants like poison ivy, allergic reactions to food or medicine that show on the skin, other deeper illnesses that might have breakouts on the surface of the skin. It is therefore very hard to isolate a particular cause and treat it.

Another major reason why the treatment of allergies is very difficult is that, skin allergies can occur due to the most common of allergens, including dust mites and pollen. While treatment for these would be able to control the symptoms, effectively, completely removing them becomes impossible due to repetitive, continuous or prolonged exposure to the same allergen.

The Most Common Skin Allergies

  • Atopic Dermatitis- Atopic dermatitis is a form of eczema, which is again a type of rash that appears on the surface of the skin. The common symptom of atopic dermatitis is dry, red, irritated and itchy skin. The skin may even have small fluid filled bump that oozes a clear yellowish liquid during infection. Atopic dermatitis has been traced to a hereditary factor, often occurring to people with a family history of allergies or asthma. It is commonly seen in children and the children may outgrow it as they age but in some cases it may become more severe and affect the quality of life severely
  • Hives- Hives are red bumps or welts. Hives are also called as urticaria and acute urticaria if it lasts for up to six weeks, and chronic urticaria if it is more than six weeks. It has been concluded that hives are caused by some allergen or infection, the cause for the chronic urticaria is not determined.
  • Contact Dermatitis- The name is self explanatory. When the skin breaks out into allergies if it comes into contact with any irritant or allergen, it is called as contact dermatitis. The symptoms include rashes, blisters, itching and burning. The allergen can be uncommon or really common things, including some metals (as in keys and jewellery), cosmetic items (including nail polish and creams), innocuous things like soaps, shampoos, laundry detergents and fabric softeners. Sometimes, even prolonged exposure to normal things might result in allergies. For example, long term contact with water can cause allergies. If the allergen requires sunlight to cause reactions, it is called as photo-allergic contact dermatitis. The common allergens in this segment include sunscreen and some perfumes.
  • Latex Allergy- Latex is a very commonly used material in everyday normal things like balloons, medical gloves etc. But some people are allergic to this material. The symptoms for latex allergies include hives, itching, runny nose, wheezing and even breathing difficulties. Depending upon how severe the allergic reaction is, even physical contact is not essentially required. Instead, just minutes of exposure to latex might cause allergies due to the airborne particles from latex.
  • Angioedema- This is the swelling in the deeper layers of the skin. Usually occurring in concurrence with hives, angioedema occurs in soft tissues including the eyelids and mouth. Angioedema can even become acute, lasting for hours at a time. The allergies are caused as a reaction to medication or food. Sometimes if it affects the respiratory passage, it can be life threatening. In rare cases, angioedema can be hereditary and can cause swelling in the skin and various parts of the body. In this case, it is best to approach a dermatologist for treatment.

Please visit for further guidance.

Dr. Rinky Kapoor is a cosmetic dermatologist practicing in Mumbai, India. She is a visiting faculty in Dermatology, Lasers and Dermato Surgery at the Stanford Medical School, USA. She is the co founder of The Esthetic Clinic, Mumbai, India and is highly skilled in non surgical and laser treatments for various issues pertaining to the skin.

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