Itchy Skin? When Allergies Are to Blame

Do you sometimes get itchy skin? It could be due to an allergy you didn’t know you have. Itchy skin is often a symptom of an allergic reaction from coming in contact with an irritant. Learning to manage skin allergies can soothe your itching and keep your skin happy and healthy.

What is a Skin Allergy?

A skin allergy is when your skin has an adverse reaction to something it encounters. If your skin comes in contact with an allergen, your immune system will overreact, causing you to experience an allergic reaction. The most common symptoms of a skin allergy are itching, hives, and a rash across the affected skin. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the individual and the specific allergen.

What is Contact Dermatitis?

If you are suffering from itchy skin after you came in contact with an allergen, you probably have contact dermatitis. “Contact dermatitis” is the dermatological term for an allergic reaction on the skin. The affected skin usually develops a red, itchy, and sometimes scaly rash. This rash can appear several hours or even several days after contact with an allergen, which can make it difficult to correctly identify the allergen.

Are Skin Allergies Dangerous?

Contact dermatitis is not life threatening, but the symptoms can be unpleasant. Symptoms can also last for days or even weeks. While itchy skin itself is not dangerous, excessive scratching of itchy skin can damage the skin and lead to a skin infection. This is why it is important to get treatment for contact dermatitis and to identify and avoid known allergens as much as possible.

What Can Cause Contact Dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is caused by contact with a specific substance that your body perceives as an allergen. This can vary from individual to individual; the same substance that gives you contact dermatitis may have no effect on someone else. For example, up to 85 percent of Americans are allergic to the poison ivy plant, but less than 1 percent are allergic to latex.

There are well over 3,000 potential skin allergens. The most common examples include:

  • Plants
  • Cosmetics
  • Soaps, cleansers, and detergents
  • Fragrances
  • Jewelry
  • Rubber
  • Bleach or other cleaning products
  • Latex

How Can I Prevent Contact Dermatitis?

If you know or suspect that you may have a skin allergy, the best thing you can do to prevent itching and other related symptoms is to avoid known allergens. Try to identify the irritant, and if possible, avoid contact with it. A dermatologist can help you figure out exactly what the cause of your skin allergy is by performing a patch test, where small amounts of common allergens are put on the skin to see if a reaction occurs.

If you cannot avoid an allergen entirely, you can take other protective measures to reduce your risk of contact dermatitis. For example, if your job requires you to use certain chemicals or cleaning products, you can wear long sleeves, gloves, and/or a mask while using them so that they don’t come in contact with your skin. If they do touch your skin, wash with a mild, fragrance-free soap immediately afterward to soothe your skin and minimize the reaction.

Another step you can take is to use moisturizing creams and lotions. These protect the skin and reinforce its own natural protective barrier so that potential allergens are less likely to affect it. Be sure to choose products that are hypoallergenic and free of fragrances, dyes, and other potential irritants.

What is the Best Treatment for Itchy Skin Due to Contact Dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is temporary and will fade on its own. However, if your symptoms are severe or if you have a young child who cannot resist scratching itchy skin, treatment can help provide relief and speed healing.

There are some things that you can do on your own at home. Wear loose, soft clothing to reduce the chance of rough or tight fabrics rubbing against the itchy skin. Apply a cool, wet compress or take a cool shower to soothe irritated skin. An oatmeal or milk bath is another home remedy that can provide relief for skin rashes.

There are also ways that our dermatologists can help you. Steroid ointments or creams applied directly to the rash can facilitate healing and provide immediate relief for contact dermatitis. Oral medications, such as corticosteroids, antihistamines, and antibiotics, can also help control the allergic reaction and promote faster healing. Finally, anti-itch creams or drugs can relieve the unpleasant symptom of itching and provide much-needed relief for contact dermatitis.

To learn more about managing contact dermatitis, contact Medovate Dermatology at 847.499.5500.