What doctor to see for skin allergy
Contact dermatitis can be caused by:
- an irritant – a substance that directly damages the outer layer of skin
- an allergen – a substance that causes the immune system to reply in a way that affects the skin
Contact dermatitis is most commonly caused by irritants such as soaps and detergents, solvents or regular contact with water.
Read about causes of contact dermatitis
When to see a pharmacist
Speak to a pharmacist if your contact dermatitis is troubling you.
They can recommend treatments such as emollients (moisturisers), which you rub on your skin to stop it becoming dry.
Find a pharmacy
When to see a GP
See a GP if you own persistent, recurrent or severe symptoms of contact dermatitis.
They can attempt to identify the cause and propose appropriate treatments.
A GP may refer you to a doctor who specialises in treating skin conditions (dermatologist) for further tests if:
- the substance causing your contact dermatitis cannot be identified
- your symptoms are not responding to treatment
Read about diagnosing contact dermatitis
Symptoms of contact dermatitis
Contact dermatitis causes the skin to become itchy, blistered, dry and cracked.
Lighter skin can become red, and darker skin can become dark brown, purple or grey.
This reaction generally occurs within a few hours or days of exposure to an irritant or allergen.
Symptoms can affect any part of the body but most commonly the hands and face.
Read about symptoms of contact dermatitis
Preventing contact dermatitis
The best way to prevent contact dermatitis is to avoid contact with the allergens or irritants that cause your symptoms.
If you cannot avoid contact, you can take steps to reduce the risk of the allergens or irritants causing symptoms, including:
- using gloves to protect your hands – but take them off every now and again, as sweating can make any symptoms worse; you may discover it useful to wear cotton gloves underneath rubber gloves if the rubber also irritates you
- cleaning your skin – if you come into contact with an allergen or irritant, rinse the affected skin with warm water and an emollient as soon as possible
- changing products that irritate your skin – check the ingredients on make-up or soap to make certain it does not contain any irritants or allergens; in some cases, you may need to contact the manufacturer or check online to get this information
- applying emollients frequently and in large amounts – these hold your skin hydrated and assist protect it from allergens and irritants; you could also use emollient soap substitutes rather than regular bar or liquid soaps, which can dry out your skin
Treating contact dermatitis
If you can successfully avoid the irritants or allergens that trigger your symptoms, your skin will eventually clear up.
However, as this is not always possible, you may also be advised to use:
- emollients – moisturisers applied to the skin to stop it becoming dry
- topical corticosteroids – steroid ointments and creams applied to the skin to relieve severe symptoms
If you own a severe episode of contact dermatitis and it covers a large area of your skin, a doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids, but this is rare.
Read about treating contact dermatitis
Other types of eczema
Other types of eczema include:
- discoid eczema – circular or oval patches of eczema on the skin
- atopic eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) – the most common type of eczema; it often runs in families and is linked to other conditions, such as asthma and hay fever
- varicose eczema – this most often affects the lower legs; it’s caused by problems with the flow of blood through the leg veins
Sheet final reviewed: 12 November 2019
Next review due: 12 November 2022
An allergic reaction may happen anywhere in the body but generally appears in the nose, eyes, lungs, lining of the stomach, sinuses, throat and skin.
These are places where special immune system cells are stationed to fight off invaders that are inhaled, swallowed or come in contact with the skin.
Asthma symptoms happen when airway muscle spasms block the flow of air to the lungs and/or the linings of the bronchial tubes become inflamed. Excess mucus may clog the airways. An asthma attack is characterized by labored or restricted breathing, a tight feeling in the chest, coughing and/or wheezing.
Sometimes a chronic cough is the only symptom.
Asthma trouble can cause only mild discomfort or it can cause life-threatening attacks in which breathing stops altogether.
Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)
Allergic rhinitis is a general term used to describe the allergic reactions that take put in the nose. Symptoms may include sneezing, congestion, runny nose, and itching of the nose, the eyes and/or the roof of the mouth. When this problem is triggered by pollens or outdoor molds, during the Spring, Summer or Drop, the condition is often called «hay fever.» When the problem is year-round, it might be caused by exposure to home dust mites, household pets, indoor molds or allergens at school or in the workplace.
Atopic and Contact Dermatitis/Hives/Skin Allergies
Atopic and contact dermatitis, eczema and hives are skin conditions that can be caused by allergens and other irritants.
Often the reaction may take hours or days to develop, as in the case of poison ivy. The most common allergic causes of rashes are medicines, insect stings, foods, animals and chemicals used at home or work.
Allergies may be aggravated by emotional stress.
Anaphylaxis is a rare, potentially fatal allergic reaction that affects numerous parts of the body at the same time. The trigger may be an insect sting, a food (such as peanuts) or a medication. Symptoms may include:
- difficulty breathing
- vomiting or diarrhea
- redness of the skin and/or hives
- a dangerous drop in blood pressure
- swelling of the throat and/or tongue
- loss of consciousness.
Frequently these symptoms start without warning and get worse rapidly. At the first sign of an anaphylactic reaction, the affected person must go immediately to the closest Emergency Room or call 911.
Metal hypersensitivity is a disorder of the immune system. It is a common condition that affects 10% to 15% of the population.
It can produce a variety of symptoms, including rashes, swelling, or pain due to contact with certain metals (see the symptoms and complications section, below).
In addition to the local skin reactions, metal hypersensitivity can also manifest itself as more chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
There are numerous local and systemic symptoms that, when considered together, can be caused by metal hypersensitivities.
It is estimated that up to 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel and that 1% to 3% of people are allergic to cobalt and chromium. These types of reactions can be localized reactions that are limited to one area, but they can also be more generalized and affect other more distant parts of the body.