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What are Skin Allergies?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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The term “skin allergies” is used to describe reactions which occur in skin which is sensitive to allergens. There are several different kinds of skin allergies, and people can experience the onset of allergies at any age. People with other types of allergies are at increased risk for developing skin allergies, as are people with autoimmune conditions and asthma.

In someone with skin allergies, the affected skin turns dry, rough, and scaly. It may swell into hives, develop a reddish color, or even crack and ooze as a result of irritation. Until the allergen is removed, the skin will get progressively worse, and the patient will usually experience profound discomfort as the skin can be itchy and painful. Skin allergies can show up anywhere on the body, and they are especially common on the face and arms.

Some people have skin allergies in the form of atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis can be caused by exposure to environmental allergens like pet dander along with ingested allergens. It can sometimes be hard to trace the cause of this skin allergy, because the outbreak may occur several hours after exposure. Chronic atopic dermatitis can be a problem for many patients with skin allergies, especially when the allergies are caused by environmental factors, like dust mites or pollen. Recurring bouts of dermatitis can also be a clue that someone is allergic to something, and they should be taken seriously if the patient has no known allergies.

Allergic contact dermatitis is a specific type of skin allergy which occurs when someone comes into direct contact with an allergen. For example, someone who is allergic to eggs might experience contact dermatitis after handling eggs while baking a cake. Babies are also prone to developing contact dermatitis around their mouths when they are introduced to new foods. Allergic contact dermatitis is different from irritant contact dermatitis, a skin reaction which occurs when the skin is exposed to an irritant like bleach.

There are a number of techniques which can be used to manage skin allergies. Avoiding the allergen should be done, if possible, and patients can also be given antihistamines to reduce the severity of the allergic reaction. Some patients may pursue allergy shots to reduce their sensitivity, and the outbreaks themselves can be managed with topical creams which soothe the itching and help to resolve the allergic response. People who experience chronic dry, scaly skin as a result of allergies may want to consider using strong moisturizers, which will make their skin feel softer and reduce itching.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By burcidi — On Apr 18, 2013

I'm not prone to skin allergies in general, my skin can tolerate most things. The only times I've experienced skin allergy symptoms were due to an insect bite, exposure to carpet mites and tea tree oil. But even these were relatively mild allergies.

When I have an allergic reaction to an insect bite, the skin around the bite becomes very swollen and red. This usually last for a week or more but eventually resolves.

Once, I had a carpet allergy and I developed a rash on my legs because I was sitting on a carpet which wasn't very clean. I think it was from mites. The rash cleared up in a few hours though.

And the only natural oil I'm allergic to is tea tree oil. I used a face wash with it once and my face became, red and itchy. I had never seen anything like that before.

Now that I know what I'm allergic to though, I'm more careful. I try to protect against insects and mites and I don't use anything with tea tree oil.

By serenesurface — On Apr 17, 2013

@turquoise-- I have heard of this condition before. I don't think it's really a skin allergy, but rather a sensitivity to the elements found in the water. It might be due to fluoride or chlorine. But you should speak with you dermatologist to make sure.

By turquoise — On Apr 17, 2013

Is it possible to have a skin allergy to water?

I know it sounds crazy but lately, my skin has been feeling irritated and itchy after showers. It seems like a skin rash due to allergies, I just don't know what's causing it.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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