An allergy happens when your immune system mistakes a normal, harmless substance for something that can cause illness. Your body then has an allergic reaction to this harmless substance called an allergen. At Dr. Matteo Clinics, we perform thorough evaluations for all types of allergies, including both contact and food. Sometimes people with allergies become so used to chronic symptoms like sneezing, nasal congestion, and wheezing that they don’t think their symptoms are unusual—or that their symptoms are interfering with their quality of life. However, an allergy specialist can help prevent or control these uncomfortable systems, improving how you feel on a day-to-day basis.
It takes at least 10 days to become sensitive to something after your first contact with it. You might even be able to touch something for years before you have an allergic reaction to it.
But once you develop an allergy, you could have a reaction within a few minutes of coming into contact with it. Or it might take a day or two.
The most common causes of skin allergies include:
- Nickel, a metal used in jewelry and snaps on jeans, makeup, lotions, soaps, and shampoos
- Sunscreens and bug sprays
- Medications you put on your skin, like antibiotics or anti-itch creams
- Cleaning products
- Plants, including poison ivy
- Latex, which is used in stretchy things like plastic gloves, elastic in clothing, condoms, and balloons
You’re more likely to have certain skin allergies if you a have skin condition like , inflammation in your lower legs because of poor circulation, itching in your private parts, or you often get swimmer’s ear. Something touches your skin, and your immune system thinks it’s under attack. It overreacts and sends antibodies to help fight the invader, called an allergen. The result is a red, itchy rash where the substance landed.
Your doctor calls this contact dermatitis. There are two types:
- Irritant contact dermatitis is caused by chemicals like harsh cleaners.
- Allergic contact dermatitis is just like it sounds — your body reacts to an allergy trigger.
HOW IS CONTACT DERMATITIS TREATED?
The best method is prevention. Find out what causes your rash and avoid it. You may need to wear gloves to protect your skin.
When you do have a reaction, try to ease the symptoms and prevent an infection. Don’t scratch, even though that’s a hard urge to resist. Over-the-counter products and home remedies can help relieve the itching and stop the swelling. Try these:
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Ointments like calamine lotion
- Cold compresses
- Oatmeal baths
- Talk to your doctor about what’s best for your specific rash. For example, corticosteroids are good for poison ivy, oak, and sumac. He can prescribe stronger medicines if needed, too.
Most skin allergies aren’t life-threatening. But in some rare cases, a severe reaction called anaphylaxis might quickly spread throughout your body and make it hard to breathe. Call 911 if your lips start to swell or itch or you feel short of breath.