There are numerous types of allergic skin disorders.  In general, skin allergies appear as red, very itchy, swollen, bumpy areas of skin.

In patients with skin allergies, skin contact with certain substances trigger a skin reaction. The intensity of the reaction depends on the amount of the substance the person was exposed to, the amount of time exposed to it, and how “bad” that person’s allergy is.  Allergy to a substance can occur even after years of exposure.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

ACD is a type of allergic skin reaction that occurs when certain substances come in contact with the skin.  The affected skin will look red, swollen, and may have blisters.  The skin will also be severely itchy.  The most common areas affected are the face, the forearms, and the hands.  Common causes of ACD include poison ivy, nickel, perfumes, dyes, latex or rubber, or certain cosmetics.

The first step is to discover exactly which substances are causing the reaction.  Patch testing may be performed if the offending substance is unknown.  This is the only way the doctor can detect what substances are the culprit.  Once the allergens are identified, you must avoid any contact with those substances.  A topical treatment such as a corticosteroid may be given in order to sooth the exaggerated skin response.  After treatment is finished, it is best to keep the skin regimen minimal to avoid additional allergen contact.

Eczema

Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder. It is caused by dysfunction of the outer layer of skin (the epidermis).  It is thought that eczema has a genetic cause.  In eczema, the skin is usually dry, very itchy, and thickened due to chronic scratching.  Eczema flare-ups are triggered by many factors. It is best to be aware of these triggers and avoid them. People with eczema should try to avoid excessive heat (e.g., bathing in hot temperatures), excessive sweating, excessive bathing, emotional stress, anxiety, and low-humidity environments. This may seem frustrating at first, but it is possible to make slight lifestyle adjustments that will ease the pain of eczema.

Existing rashes are usually treated with topical medications.  The severe urge to itch is commonly treated with antihistamine medication.  Stopping the itching keeps the skin barrier intact and prevents infection.

Keeping the skin properly hydrated is an essential factor in controlling eczema. Contrary to popular belief, lotions, creams, and ointments are not all equally beneficial. Moisturizers with high water content are worse for eczema because the water evaporates and dries out the skin, which can actually stimulate outbreaks of eczema. Lotions contain the most water. The better options for skin moisturizers are creams or ointments: creams contain less water, and ointments contain none. This helps keep the epidermal layer intact.

Urticaria

Urticaria is the fancy name for hives.  Urticaria appears as raised, red, intensely itchy areas of skin.  They are usually caused by food allergies, drug allergies, insect stings, or infection.  In many cases, however, there is no specific cause.  Physical urticaria is a different type of hives with non-allergic causes such as extremes in temperature, exercise, excessive pressure or rubbing of the skin, or sun exposure.  Chronic urticaria can be very frustrating to deal with and hard to treat.  However, you must be patient and carefully adhere to any medication or management plan.  Keep in mind that almost half of patients with chronic urticaria have it subside after only one year.

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(212) 285-1110
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