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Education Library: Skin Allergies - Contact Dermatitis

Introduction

For some people, objects as common as rubber soled shoes, jewelry, or cleaning products can cause an allergic skin reaction (contact dermatitis). Symptoms include varying degrees of an itchy inflamed rash. If treatment is necessary, there are a variety of medicated lotions or creams to ease symptoms. Fortunately, a patch skin test can help identify what you are allergic to, as avoidance is the best preventative measure.

Anatomy

Your skin consists of several layers of tissue that cover your body to help protect it from the environment. Allergens are substances that cause skin inflammation when directly contacting the skin.

Causes

Skin allergies are caused by direct skin contact with allergens. Common allergens include detergents, fabrics, fragrances, make-up, rubber, metals, and medication.

Symptoms

Skin allergy symptoms vary from person to person and can even change over time. The hallmark symptom is a red rash. Your skin may feel warm, tender, or itchy. Skin reactions can range from mild to severe. The skin may become swollen, and severe skin rashes may blister.

Diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose skin allergies by reviewing your medical history and examining your skin. Patch testing can help identify specific allergens. Patch testing involves exposing the skin to a possible allergen and checking the results after a length of time. A skin culture or biopsy may be taken to check for infection.

Treatment

Initially, you should thoroughly wash the skin area that has been exposed to an allergen with a gentle touch. In some cases, it is best not to apply any treatment, but to simply avoid the allergen and let the skin heal. Corticosteroid, anti-itch, or drying lotions may help reduce symptoms. Follow the corticosteroid medication instructions carefully as overuse may make symptoms worse. Skin allergies usually take a few weeks to heal.

Prevention

You can help prevent allergic skin reactions by avoiding allergens. It can help to wear protective gloves or other barriers to prevent skin contact.

Am I at Risk?

People with a history of any type of allergy have a higher risk of skin allergies.

Complications

Bacterial skin infections may occur as a result of open skin areas.

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