What is a skin allergy/contact dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is a reaction that appears when the skin comes in contact with an irritant or an allergen. Symptoms can include a rash, blisters, itching, and burning.

Soaps, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, shampoos — or even excessive exposure to water — can all cause contact dermatitis. Other items that can cause a reaction are metals (such as nickel, a component of stainless steel and other alloys used to make costume jewelry), adhesives, nail polish, topical medications, plants, and latex gloves.

Sometimes an allergen won’t cause a skin reaction unless the skin is also exposed to sunlight. This condition is called photoallergic contact dermatitis. It can occur with products such as shaving lotion, sunscreen, and some perfumes.

What does skin allergy look like?

There are several different types of skin allergy reactions:

Eczema (also commonly called atopic dermatitis) typically results in dry, sensitive skin. You may experience red itchy patches. Eczema can come and go over time, and flare-ups may crack, ooze, and itch severely. It is very itchy and can vary in severity from mild (just dry skin ) to severe (red, scaly, thick, fissured and oozing skin).

Hives (also known as urticaria) are raised itchy bumps. Typically hives appear reddish, and will “blanch” (or turn white) in the center when pressed.

Contact dermatitis is typically caused by exposure to an allergen or irritant. If you have red itchy bumps on your skin, especially at the site of contact with some potential irritant or allergen, you may be experiencing contact dermatitis.

Can I suddenly develop a skin allergy?

An allergic skin reaction can start right after you touch something. You can also suddenly become allergic to something that has never bothered you before. So, don’t rule out something you’ve used for years.

Keep in mind that your symptoms may not show up for a day or two after you’re exposed.

Skin allergy symptoms often go away on their own in a week or two, but treatment may make you more comfortable in the meantime.

What causes skin allergies?

Your immune system is important for maintaining your overall health. It works to detect and neutralize foreign invaders, such as infectious microbes and even cancer cells. When this happens, inflammation can occur.