When you hear the word “allergy” you may think of sniffling and sneezing. For people who have allergies of the skin, it’s itch they want to ditch. Officially called “allergic contact dermatitis,” it occurs when your skin comes into contact with a substance that causes you to have an allergic reaction.
Common skin allergen include soaps, jewelry, fragrances, fabrics, plants (á la poison ivy, oak or sumac) [include links to appropriate posts] or materials (like rubber or latex).
Our friend Jen, for example, is allergic to nickel. Unfortunately Aunt Cathy didn’t know this when gifting her a beautiful birthday necklace, so after several hours of wearing her new necklace Jen’s skin became red, raised and itchy. Fortunately, Jen knows the deal so she removes the necklace and treats her skin, but for many people they may not be aware they are allergic until after coming into contact with the invader.
If you not sure what you’re allergic to, it’s important to get to the bottom of the cause. A skin allergy test can be done right at the doctor’s office if you are noticing frequent reactions. There are several ways to conduct a skin allergy test, such as the infamous “skin prick” test, but injections and patch tests are also common. Some tests can even yield results in the same doctor’s visit!
Symptoms of a skin allergy may be different, too. While Jen’s reaction caused red and itchy skin, some people may have bumps, blisters, rashes, patches of scaly, raw and thickened skin. For many people, over-the-counter creams can help with the itchiness that comes with an allergic reaction. You can also find steroid-free options at the drugstore. Most people can safely treat at home; however the American Academy of Dermatology suggests going to the hospital right away if the reaction is severe (like having trouble breathing or swelling of the face).
References: American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology/ Skin Allergy; American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology/ Allergic Reactions; National Library of Medicine/ Contact Dermatitis; Mayo Clinic/Skin Allergy Tests, American Academy of Dermatology/ Poison Ivy