What is an Allergic Rash?

D. Jeffress

An allergic rash is a common physical response to an antigen that can result in redness, flaky skin, itching, and hives. People usually develop rashes after coming into direct contact with substance to which they are allergic, such as poison ivy or latex. Hives can also appear as an allergic reaction to medications, foods, insect stings, or airborne pathogens. A mild allergic rash can often be alleviated at home by applying topical lotions and antihistamine creams, though severe reactions often need medical treatment. Doctors can determine the cause of an allergic rash, prescribe medication, and explain how to avoid future reactions.

Some laundry detergents can cause skin reactions.
Some laundry detergents can cause skin reactions.

The immune system is responsible for fighting off dangerous bacteria and viruses in the body. An allergic person's immune system responds to allergens in the same way, even though the substances do not normally pose a threat to health. The release of natural antibodies causes the skin to become irritated, red, and inflamed, a condition known as eczema. In the case of hives, itchy blisters can appear in an isolated area or all over the body. In severe cases, eczema and hives can persist for several hours or even days after being exposed to an allergen.

Allergies to shellfish, like oysters, are common and can cause a rash.
Allergies to shellfish, like oysters, are common and can cause a rash.

A contact rash typically appears shortly after exposure to offensive chemicals, plant oils, or insect stings. Common sources of contact allergic rashes include poison ivy and sumac, perfumes, chlorine, and laundry detergents. Many people experience hives after taking certain medications, eating foods such as nuts and shellfish, or breathing in airborne allergens like pollen and animal dander.

An allergic rash.
An allergic rash.

Most allergic rashes can be relieved by avoiding the cause, cleaning the skin with cool water and mild soap, and applying a soothing ointment. Calamine lotion and topical antihistamines can significantly reduce burning and itching sensations. Many people take over-the-counter oral antihistamines as well to further reduce symptoms. A person who experiences frequent allergic reactions can talk to his or her doctor about long-term solutions, such as daily preventive medication or allergy shots.

Creams that treat itching are available at most drugstores.
Creams that treat itching are available at most drugstores.

A severe allergic rash can result in unbearable pain, swelling in the throat, fever, and nausea. Emergency medical care is necessary to prevent the individual from going into shock or slipping into unconsciousness. A doctor or emergency responder can inject the person with a shot of epinephrine to relieve throat swelling and stabilize blood pressure. During recovery, doctors explain what caused the allergic rash and inform the patient how to handle future incidences. Patients are often given their own supplies of epinephrine to have on hand should another episode occur.

Eczema can flare up as a result of being exposed to an allergen.
Eczema can flare up as a result of being exposed to an allergen.
Hives typically stem from an allergic reaction.
Hives typically stem from an allergic reaction.
The chemicals in fabric softener can irritate sensitive skin.
The chemicals in fabric softener can irritate sensitive skin.
Allergic rashes can cause severe burning and itching sensations.
Allergic rashes can cause severe burning and itching sensations.
A contact rash appears shortly after exposure to offensive chemicals, plant oils or insect stings.
A contact rash appears shortly after exposure to offensive chemicals, plant oils or insect stings.
A person will typically experience a rash with blisters within two days of having direct contact with a poison ivy plant.
A person will typically experience a rash with blisters within two days of having direct contact with a poison ivy plant.

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Discussion Comments

Ocelot60

@raynbow- I think that you would benefit from trying natural laundry detergent. There are several brands on the market that you could experiment with, though they can be costly.

Another alternative that is less expesive is to make your own laundry detergent. There are different recipes available online to choose from, depending on your laundry needs. When it comes to using a fabric softener, replacing it with white vinegar will give you great results with no skin side effects.

Rundocuri

@raynbow- If you have never tried running an extra rinse cycle on your laundry, you should give it a try. Rinsing your clothes several times will help remove excess laundry detergent and fabric softener, and may decrease your chances of developing rashes.

Raynbow

It seems that no matter what different types of laundry detergents and softeners I try, I still develop allergic rashes all over my body. Does anyone have some suggestions that could help me avoid this uncomfortable problem?

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