What Is Allergic Eczema?
Allergic eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a condition that causes a person's skin to become extremely dry and inflamed. It usually affects the areas of the arms, legs, and face, though it can occur anywhere on the body. The symptoms include redness, itchiness, and a rash-like appearance.
This condition occurs as a result of an immunological reaction to specific allergens that, when triggered, put the body into an inflammatory state, releasing chemicals from the immune system. This skin condition can range from being barely noticeable to significantly disruptive depending on how severe the reaction is and how often it occurs. In the more severe cases of allergic eczema, cracking of the skin, along with crusting and bleeding, can occur.
How Do Allergies Cause Eczema?
Allergies and eczema are closely intertwined. Atopic dermatitis is an allergic condition and the “itis” in its name refers to inflammation. So, it’s a disease of inflammation. When you have eczema, your body's immune system has an abnormal reaction to mostly harmless substances in your environment.
When you make contact with these substances on your sensitive skin, your body perceives these tiny irritants as foreign invaders and activates its natural defense mechanism - inflammation. Some skin irritants that could trigger inflammation include chemicals in detergents, household cleaners, or cosmetics. Your immune system goes into overdrive and produces excess inflammation.
The inflammation can be localized to a specific area, mostly on your hands, ankles, wrists, scalp, the inside of your elbows, and the back of your knees. However, it could also cover the entirety of your skin. When you have a hypersensitive immune system, your body gets into a state of chronic inflammation that takes hold and leads to the cycle of redness and itch we recognize as eczema.
Can Seasonal Allergies Cause Eczema?
Yes! If you have hay fever, your body could react to allergens such as dust mites, pollen, pet dander, or certain foods. When this happens, your body produces a protein called histamine. Histamine then reacts with other surrounding cells and tissues, triggering inflammation which can cause eczema symptoms.
What Allergies Cause Eczema?
We have already established that allergies can contribute significantly to eczema. The question now is, what types of allergies cause this skin condition? The main culprits are environmental, contact, and food allergies. So, let’s explore each one to better understand the connection between eczema and allergies.
Environmental allergies are caused by exposure to pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or other allergens in your environment. The most common environmental allergens that cause eczema are dust mites, pet dander, and pollen from grasses, weeds, or trees.
When you encounter these allergens in the air or on your sensitive skin, your immune system releases histamine, which causes inflammation of the skin leading to an outbreak of eczema. It's important to note that environmental allergies can worsen existing cases of eczema.
Contact allergies occur when your skin comes into contact with a chemical or substance your body perceives as foreign. Common contact allergy triggers include cosmetics (such as preservatives or fragrances), soaps and detergents, and jewelry containing nickel or other metals. Other triggers include latex gloves, wool fabrics, or certain synthetic materials like polyester.
Contact allergy symptoms may appear immediately after exposure to the allergen or several hours later. Contact allergies usually cause localized redness and itching at the site of contact with the allergen and can worsen existing cases of eczema if not treated promptly.
Food allergies are triggered by eating specific foods such as nuts, eggs, milk products, or shellfish. Food allergy symptoms typically occur within minutes after eating the food allergen, but it can take up to several hours for symptoms to appear.
Food allergy reactions may be mild (causing itching around the mouth) or severe (causing swelling of the lips and throat). However, in some cases, food allergies can exacerbate existing cases of eczema, especially if there is a history of food sensitivities in a person's family medical history. If you experience a severe allergic reaction seek immediate medical attention.
The hallmark symptom of eczema is intense itching which can lead to redness and irritation of the affected area(s). Other common symptoms include:
- Dry skin
- Skin rash
- Patches or bumps on the skin
- Scaly or leathery texture to affected areas
- Pigment changes in affected areas
- Cracking or blistering of the skin due to scratching/rubbing/picking at affected areas
In severe cases of eczema, individuals may experience thickening and darkening of the affected area(s), along with swelling due to inflammation.
How to Treat Eczema From Allergies
There are several treatment options available if you are someone who suffers from eczema due to allergies. Let's discuss the best treatment options to reduce your symptoms.
Identifying Your Allergens
The first step in treating allergy-induced eczema is to find out what allergens cause your symptoms. Common allergens include pollen, pet dander, dust mites, mold, and certain foods. An allergist can help you identify your specific triggers with a skin prick test or a blood test. Once you know what you're allergic to, you can avoid those substances as much as possible.
Regularly applying moisturizing lotion or cream can help keep eczema flare-ups at bay. Look for lotions that contain ingredients such as ceramides or glycerin, which help lock moisture into the skin and protect it from irritants like dust mites or pollen that could trigger a flare-up. Also, try using hypoallergenic laundry detergent when washing clothes or bedding, as this can help reduce the risk of triggering an allergic reaction.
A doctor may prescribe medications such as topical steroids or antihistamines to reduce inflammation associated with eczema flare-ups caused by allergies. These medications are typically applied directly onto the affected area of the skin until symptoms subside. Follow any instructions provided by your doctor when using these medications to avoid any potential side effects or interactions with other medications you may be taking.
In more severe cases of eczema, doctors may recommend phototherapy (light therapy) or immunosuppressant medications. Be sure to talk with a doctor about which treatment option is best for you based on your needs and lifestyle.
When To See a Doctor
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it's important to make an appointment with your doctor:
- Constant itching
- Burning sensation on the skin
- Swelling or blistering of the skin
- Redness or discoloration of the affected area
- Areas of thickened or leathery skin
These are all signs of eczema and not just a skin rash.
When To See a Doctor for Allergies That May Cause Eczema
If you notice certain skin symptoms such as itching, redness, burning sensation, or swelling after an allergic reaction, you need to get medical care right away. Your doctor will be able to diagnose any underlying allergies you may have and prescribe medications or immunotherapy treatments that can help manage your eczema.
Eczema is an often persistent and chronic skin condition that can be difficult to diagnose and treat. However, you can easily find out if your allergies trigger your eczema so you can get proper treatment and know what allergen to avoid. Here are two effective ways to get a diagnosis.
Skin Prick Test
A doctor may recommend a skin prick test if they suspect allergies cause your eczema. During this test, your doctor will place a drop of liquid containing an allergen on your arm or back and then prick the area with a needle. If your body reacts with redness or swelling at the site of the prick, it indicates that you are sensitive to that particular allergen. This information can help your doctor determine which allergens are causing your symptoms and create a personalized treatment plan.
At-Home Allergy Test from Wyndly
An at-home allergy test allows you to take control of your health care and get accurate results quickly and conveniently from the comfort of your own home.
- You start by ordering your at-home allergy test online from Wyndly's website. We will send the test kit straight to your door.
- Take the test yourself using simple instructions provided with the kit and send it back to us. It's a simple finger prick test that will provide us with your blood sample for a complete diagnosis.
- When we receive it, our team of allergy experts will analyze the results and send them back to you. They'll create your allergy profile and take you through a personalized treatment plan.
Both of these options will help you realize what allergens cause your conditions. It's recommended that you avoid self-diagnosis since it can be hard to identify what exact allergens are triggering your symptoms if you have multiple allergies. A Wyndly allergy test will reveal all your seasonal and environmental allergies, and help you get a treatment plan that works for you.
Three common allergy treatments include limiting exposure, taking medications, and sublingual immunotherapy. Let's look at each in more detail.
The most important step for treating allergies that exacerbate your eczema is to limit exposure to whatever triggers the allergy. This means avoiding contact with dust mites, pollen, pet dander, mold spores, and foods you're allergic to. Depending on the severity of your allergy, this might mean using an air purifier in your home or office. You also want to vacuum your carpets regularly with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuum cleaner. You may also need to wear a mask when outdoors if you are sensitive to pollen or other outdoor allergens.
Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines can be effective at reducing itching and inflammation associated with allergies. For more severe cases that don't respond well to OTC medications, topical corticosteroids are often prescribed to reduce itching and inflammation. In some cases, oral corticosteroids can also be prescribed as a short-term treatment option.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is another potential treatment option for allergies. This therapy involves placing drops or tablets containing small amounts of allergens under the tongue daily over several months. They desensitize the body to the allergen and reduce symptoms associated with allergic reactions for long-term relief.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
If you're experiencing more frequent flare-ups of your eczema and suspect it's due to allergies, our Wyndly at-home allergy test is the ideal way to quickly identify what might be causing the problem. Our test is highly accurate and affordable, and it helps identify existing allergies that might be triggering or otherwise affecting your eczema flare-ups. Identifying the cause of flare-ups can help you work toward the best possible treatment plan for your eczema.
Take our allergy assessment test today to get one step closer to finding relief!