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Skin Allergies

Edited by Dr Claudia Pastides, 25th April 2019

Allergic reactions can be worrying, especially if you weren’t already aware you had an allergy. Reactions to allergens often manifest on the skin, creating rashes or blisters that can range from embarrassing and inconvenient to incredibly painful. If you think you may be suffering from an allergic reaction that’s causing a skin condition, it’s important to speak to a doctor to have it diagnosed properly. They can also provide you with treatments to ease any pain and help your skin to recover from the reaction.

Symptoms of skin allergies

There are many different types of allergies, and they all produce varying reactions. However, there are some common reactions to allergies that pop up regularly, which doctors can diagnose with a simple examination. These include:

  • Urticaria - often referred to as ‘hives’. This itchy, red rash is usually raised from the skin.
  • Contact dermatitis - this reaction is a form of eczema, and involves blistered, red skin that can be painful.
  • Angioedema - a deeper type of swelling, which most commonly appears around the eyes, nose, hands, genitals and feet.
  • Atopic eczema - dry, inflamed skin which can be itchy and uncomfortable. A doctor will need to see the affected area.

Causes of skin allergies

There are a multitude of things that can cause your skin to have an allergic reaction. Allergens can include food, cosmetics, certain types of metal, pollen and even sunlight. Here are some of the most common allergens:

  • Dairy foods - foods like milk and eggs can cause itchy skin and other reactions.
  • Nuts - peanut allergies are relatively common, and can cause hives, itching and swelling.
  • Cosmetics - make-up, hair products, hair dyes and certain soaps contain a multitude of chemicals which can cause skin reactions.
  • Latex - rubber gloves and condoms both contain latex, which is a common cause of allergic reactions.
  • Clothing or detergents - many garments contain chemicals to prevent wrinkling, and certain detergents and softeners can also cause swelling, rashes or blisters.
  • Nickel - a lot of jewellery is often made from nickel, which can cause swelling in the area the jewellery was worn or irritate the skin.
  • Sunlight - in rare cases, the allergic reaction may be down to exposure to the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. This is known as Polymorphic Light Eruption, and it can cause a painful rash.

Treating skin allergies

It’s vital that you see a doctor as soon as you suspect you may have suffered an allergic reaction. If left untreated, the skin condition could become noticeably worse.

If you think you already know which allergen caused the reaction, take steps to avoid exposing yourself to it in the future. If you’re unsure about the root cause of the allergic reaction, speak to a GP - they can discuss possible causes of the reaction and provide advice on avoiding that particular allergen going forward.