How Allergies Affect Your Skin

Woman scratching at broken out arm How Allergies Affect Your Skin

For many people, springtime is synonymous with seasonal allergies. Pollen, plant life, pests, and plenty of sunshine can all trigger various allergic responses, such as sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, drowsiness, and last but not least, skin problems. Indeed, the skin is a prime target for allergens of all kinds since it’s the first layer of defense against external contaminants. To mitigate the negative effects allergens can have on your skin, it helps to know which factors trigger an allergic response in your body and how to effectively treat symptoms when they arise.

The Impact of Allergies on Skin

Allergies Can Cause You to Break Out in Hives

A hives outbreak (acute urticaria) is among the most common allergic responses one can experience. These itchy red bumps can show up on your skin after coming into direct contact with an allergen (i.e., contact dermatitis), eating certain foods, taking certain medications, and/or receiving an insect bite. To fend off what the body sees as threatening, the immune system releases histamine, which in turn leads to leaking blood vessels. This leakage creates swelling in the form of hives. Whatever the trigger may be, hives usually appear immediately after the fact and, fortunately, go away on their own within hours or days. Still, some breakouts can be quite painful and may require treatment (e.g., antihistamines).

Allergies Can Trigger or Worsen Eczema

Allergic responses can also trigger or exacerbate one’s eczema (atopic dermatitis), a common skin condition that results from a weakened, leaky skin barrier. Eczema symptoms include itchy, dry, red, flaky skin. The root cause of this chronic allergic condition seems to be genetic, but various factors can aggravate these symptoms in children and adults alike. Common triggers for eczema include animal dander, perfumes, dust, and certain cleaning products.

Allergies Can Lead to Severe Skin Swelling

In addition to hives and eczema symptoms, allergies can cause the skin to swell in specific areas and to varying degrees. A mild allergy rash is usually a result of allergic contact dermatitis, which occurs when the skin comes into direct contact with a specific allergen (e.g., nickel, poison ivy, cosmetic products, etc.). More serious rashes and inflammation may also occur when the body undergoes an allergic response. Angioedema, for instance, refers to swelling that takes place in the deeper layers of skin. One might experience acute angioedema symptoms in the eyelids, genitals, or mouth. One can also suffer from chronic angioedema, wherein symptoms come back and stick around for extended periods of time.

How to Avoid Allergy-Related Skin Problems

Allergies can be difficult to avoid if you don’t know what they are. If you experience allergy-related skin issues, then try to note the materials and factors with which you came into contact to try and narrow down exactly what’s causing these problems. Your dermatologist can help you further identify specific allergens by asking questions and performing tests. Even when you determine your triggers, however, avoiding them can be challenging, especially during times of the year when allergens run rampant (like springtime). To protect your skin from potential problems, you should:

  • Avoid going outside when pollen pollutes the air, and the sun is high (to avoid sun damage and sun allergy symptoms)

  • Close windows and control your interior environment via HVAC systems and fresh filters

  • Lower stress levels to keep histamine low

  • Clean your sheets, pillowcases, and clothing regularly

  • Don’t use skin products containing dyes, fragrances, or abrasive ingredients

  • Gently exfoliate your skin but avoid exfoliating allergy-affected/breached skin until symptoms have subsided and the skin has healed

  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing

  • Keep your skin and body hydrated

Most allergy-related skin issues can also be treated in various ways, depending on your skin type and specific symptoms. Antihistamines, for instance, can be used to mitigate hives outbreaks. Hydrocortisone cream may be prescribed by your dermatologist as a rash treatment to relieve severe itching. Calamine lotion is another treatment option for rashes and inflammation. Talk to your dermatologist to learn about additional skin allergy treatment and prevention options.

Allergy season is just around the corner. Let Premier Dermatology Partners help you make sure your skin is properly prepared for all the threats in your environment. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.

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