Types of Skin Allergy: An overview


Taking good care of your skin is a tougher task than most would imagine. There are countless substances that we come across everyday which have the ability to affect the skin, and at some point in time they do end up doing so. One of the most common effects that such substances can have on the skin is known as “skin allergy”.

What causes Skin allergies?

Generally, an allergy is a reaction triggered by the immune system, when it responds to foreign substances that find their way into the body (1). This particular response is an aggravated one since there usually isn’t a similar reaction in people who are not allergic to the substance.

When it comes to skin allergies, this trigger may be due to a number of foreign substances, all of which are commonly categorized as allergens. These may range between anything from harmless everyday entities like pollen, food items to harmful chemical substances. Skin allergy usually exhibits itself as rashes, itches, and inflammation on the skin.

The process of developing an allergic reaction begins when an allergic person comes in touch with the particular allergen that they are allergic to. At this point, the immune system takes it upon itself to respond with the help of IgE antibody (2). This term stands for immunoglobulin E, which is an antibody that usually exists in all of us.

But an especially high amount of it can be found in allergic people. The reaction period is when the production in highly increased, and although it is meant to protect from parasites and contain the harmful chemicals, it results in the signs of allergies. In terms of skin-related allergies, the most common forms are allergic eczema and hives (urticaria).

Are Skin allergies contagious?

It is important to recognize that eczema is not a single disease but a specific group of conditions that may cause inflammation, redness, and itching of the skin (3). These are the beginning signs of eczema and are vital in diagnosing the problem.

Out of the different skin conditions that come under the category of eczema, the most prevalent and common one is called atopic dermatitis. While the term atopic refers to a connection with the immune system, dermatitis is the common term used for any skin condition that may cause inflammation.

A common misconception about eczema is that it can be contagious. This is not true, while the main causes of eczema are often a combination of genetics and environmental influences on the skin.

Whereas hives or urticaria is a fairly common skin condition, known to affect at least 20 percent of the population at least once in their lifetime. It holds a lot of mystery in how it is actually caused because it proves to be elusive. Hives begin to show up on the skin as patches of itchy skin, which soon tend to develop into swollen welts. Reddening of the skin is a common occurrence in this case (4).

Similarly to eczema, hives are not actually contagious, even though they appear in aggravated forms on the skin and may look threatening. They tend to resolve from the skin within weeks, given the right treatment. And although not contagious, they are vulnerable to allergic reactions.

Are Skin allergies dangerous?

Neither forms of skin allergies are actually dangerous to the patient and rarely cause irreversible damage if managed correctly. The reasons behind developing allergies may be a mix of both genetic dispositions as well as environmental factors. Due to genetics, the chances of a person with siblings and parents with allergies developing one themselves is high.

Moreover, it has been observed that children born through a Cesarean section are more prone to allergies than those delivered in the normal way (5). Further exposure to pollution and smoking only weaken the system and make it more vulnerable to allergens. Allergies are known to be more commonplace in western and modernized countries and cities, as opposed to more backward countries still rooted in farm-related lifestyles.

How to remove Skin allergy?

Skin allergies have long been studied and observed by dermatologists to have a set of rules and preventive measures that ensure safety against them. Most are preventive measures which can be taken against contracting the condition in the first place. So this includes avoiding contact with foreign objects and those which you might be allergic to. Maintaining adequate forms of hygiene like regular washing and cleaning only help in keeping away allergens from the skin.

However, once contracting the skin allergy, it is best to take steps which ensure that inflammation, reddening, and itching are addressed. The use of cold compresses and wet soaking of the area are known to reduce the effects of the allergy. Soothing the skin is the best way to often handle such skin allergies.

Avoiding any circumstances which may irritate the rashes is another step that patients can take (6). This may include avoiding tight apparels and materials against the skin. When these home options fail to work, it may be time to visit a dermatologist for topical solutions and anti-itch creams that they recommend.

It is vital that you visit a doctor rather than opting for over-the-counter products since they can have adverse effects on your skin otherwise. Skin allergy is a delicate issue that should always be handled with caution.

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Dr Jisha Gomez

Dr Jisha Gomez

She is a highly skilled dermatology physician with strong expertise in improving skin & hair health through the development of corrective treatment combinations. She completed her Post-graduate Diploma in Dermatology from Cardiff, UK & Fellowship in Aesthetic Medicine (FAM) from the Institute of Laser and Aesthetic Medicine, Delhi with over 5+ years experience treating skin patients. She has worked in Government hospitals in Trivandrum and Bangalore. She is actively involved in creating awareness for healthy skin, breaking the social stigma based on skin colour & stopping steroid abuse in our country.