Every year, Americans spend $18 billion for allergy-related ailments. This number, based on data presented by the American College of Allergy, is quite alarming. While this $18 billion spent on said conditions covers allergies from skin contact allergens to drug reactions and everything in between, a sizable portion of this amount is spent on skin allergies.
Many households in the United States spend a portion of their income to treat skin allergies. This can be for their own allergies or those experienced by their children. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology notes that in 2012, 8.8 million children were recorded to have suffered from skin allergies. This is something to take note of because even if allergic reactions are usually mild, it is still best to visit a physician immediately because some rashes can be early symptoms of more serious ailments. While such instances are rare, it doesn’t hurt to make sure that what you are experiencing or what your child is experiencing is just a common reaction to common skin contact allergens.
Common Skin Contact Allergens and Irritants
Many allergies are caused by fragrances, household cleaners, soap, facial creams, sunscreen, and food. The question is, how do they enter our doors and later on, our system? Most people are busy and examining every product’s chemical composition is next to impossible. If you don’t know which items are causing your rashes, here are some of the most common skin irritants.
Although they are not intended for the skin, chemicals in household cleaners can cause allergic reactions when you are exposed to them. All-purpose cleaners, dishwashing liquids, laundry detergents, toilet disinfectants and the like can cause skin allergies. To ensure that you don’t introduce skin irritants to your skin, wearing gloves when using these products is advised.
Soap is a good way to get rid of oil, germs, and dirt but using it excessively can result in dry skin. Many often overlook this issue, but if the skin is too dry, it can crack and bleed. Donald V. Belsito, MD, a University of Missouri clinical professor of medicine, notes that excessive hand washing is a problem. He adds that since we live in a germaphobic society, we keep using soap without attempting to truly protect our skin.
Facial creams can be effective if they are right for you. However, the ones that sting and burn will likely cause irritation if you continue using them. If you suspect that your current facial cream is irritating your skin, check for preservatives, alpha hydroxyl acids, and ascorbic acid because any of these three can be the culprit.
Rough fabrics can cause atopic dermatitis. This form of eczema involved skin inflammation and red and itchy skin. The National Eczema Association states that 18 million (72%) adults have atopic dermatitis and 9.6 million (13%) children develop it.
If you feel that a certain fabric is irritating your skin, it is best to throw them in the trash. Experts like Belsito suggest that you choose cotton poly fabrics and cotton to avoid skin irritation.
Fabric Softeners and Dryer Sheets
We love the smell of fresh sheets but sometimes, those wonderful fragrances in fabric softeners can cause irritation. If you suspect that your fabric softener is causing allergic reactions, it is time to switch to a fragrance-free product.
Many people have fragrance allergies, but since there are around 5,000 fragrances and many combinations, it can be difficult to determine which fragrance you are allergic to. This is why picking fragrance-free products is always a good move for people with sensitive skin.
Plants are lovely but some of them can cause allergic contact dermatitis. Poison oak, poison sumac, and poison ivy are among the most common plant irritants in the country. They can cause itching and rashes that can last for 5 to 12 days.
Skin Testing for Allergies
Do you want to determine what you are allergic to? To avoid the guesswork, talk to your dermatologist about patch testing.
Patch testing involves testing a range of extracts that can cause allergic reactions. A specialist applies these extracts to the skin and if there is a reaction, they can tell you what you are allergic to.
Allergic Reactions: What to Do
Whenever a certain substance irritates your skin, your immune system reacts by creating antibodies to fight said substances. It can be anything from your food, medication, or the products you use.
While most allergies are mild and can wait, some skin allergies are life-threatening. These rashes are rare but when they happen, it is best to go to the emergency room immediately.
If you are suffering from a mild allergic reaction or have in the past, schedule a consultation with 0ne of our offices to discover what is causing it and how to prevent reactions in the future. If you are currently suffering from a severe allergic reaction, go to the hospital immediately or call 911 for help.
Have you experienced redness and irritation after using a skin-care product or trying out a new detergent? How about a skin reaction with no explanation? If so, you may have suffered from contact dermatitis, which occurs when contact with chemicals causes irritation or allergic reaction. Although most cases are not severe, contact dermatitis can be unpleasant and also frustrating if the cause is not clear.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Allergic contact dermatitis is an immune response to an allergen. It can be itchy and can also make the skin dry, flaky, or scaly. However, the symptoms associated with this allergic reaction depend on your skin’s sensitivity. This substance may bring about other symptoms including oozing blisters, redness, leathery appearance, burning sensation, hives, sun sensitivity, and swelling.
Patch Testing and Why It’s Necessary
If you already know what you’re allergic to, that’s great! It will be much easier for you to avoid these chemicals and ingredients. However, if you came in contact with an allergen by accident, it is best to consult with a dermatologist to get the skin treatment you need. For those who suddenly develop patches of dermatitis due to unknown causes, patch testing is necessary.
Metals, leather, rubber, and cosmetics, for example, contain a number of chemicals that can cause allergic reactions. Through patch testing, you and your doctor will be able to identify the allergen. This will help your dermatologist determine which treatment is right for your skin and will be able to help you avoid the allergen in the future.
How Does Patch Testing Work?
An experienced dermatologist will perform the patch test. During the test, small amounts of certain substances are applied to your skin and secured with hypoallergenic tape. These are usually placed on the upper back to ensure they are not disturbed. You will need to come back after 48 hours to get the patches removed. At this time, your dermatologist will do a thorough examination of your skin’s reaction to the substances. Two additional days later, the specialist will examine the spots again to see if there is any delayed reaction.
Dermatologists have a standard set of substances they test on individuals with suspected Allergic Contact Dermatitis. This includes Balsam of Peru, benzocaine, lanolin or wool alcohols, rosin, rubber accelerators, quaternium-15, formaldehyde resin, formaldehyde, p-tert butylphenol, plants, paraben mix, paraphenylenediamine, nickel, neomycin, fragrances, imidazolidinyl urea, ethylenediamine, cobalt, epoxy resin, clioquinol, and chrome. This list includes additives in leather, ointments, clothes, and other items we come in contact with on a regular basis.
Please note that if your dermatologist suspects other allergens, more patches will be added for testing. This can include substances that you come in contact with in your workplace or substances contained in your specific makeup or creams. Bringing in samples of the products you use would also be useful to your doctor, especially if you suspect one of these products is causing the allergic reaction.
Once the test results are in, your dermatologist will be able to give you details on what caused your recent allergic reaction. Your dermatologist will give you advice on how to avoid the substance you are allergic to. If the results reveal that you do not suffer from allergic contact dermatitis, you will be able to rule it out and your doctor can proceed with other tests to determine what is causing the skin irritation.
Irritant Contact Dermatitis
If an irritant caused the contact dermatitis, the symptoms are slightly different. This can include skin blistering and cracking because of extreme dryness, stiff or tight skin, swelling, ulcerations, and open sores. This form of contact dermatitis is caused by skin injuries due to environmental factors, chemicals, or friction. The severity of the condition can vary depending on the strength of the irritant, frequency or length of exposure, and skin susceptibility.
Solvents you have come in contact with including detergents, metalworking fluids, adhesives, acid, alkalis, friction, and water can also cause it. Sometimes, two or more of these irritants act together in irritating the skin.
Anyone can experience irritant contact dermatitis if they come into contact with an irritant. However, those who suffer from atopy (a predisposition to allergic reactions) are more susceptible to the condition.
Testing for Irritant Contact Dermatitis
Because this condition can coexist with allergic contact dermatitis, your dermatologist may decide to perform the test to rule this out. The rash typically heals on its own as long as you avoid exposure to the irritant, but special treatment is available if needed. Be sure to contact your dermatologist to get the right treatment for the condition.
If it’s necessary that you handle the irritant again, make sure to cover up and protect your skin. However, try to avoid them altogether if possible.
Patch testing is important to prevent and treat redness, irritation, and itching caused by contact with an allergen or irritant. If you think you may be experiencing contact dermatitis or would like to prevent it, contact us today.Lear More