Bumpy, itchy, red skin can be painful, irritating, and sometimes embarrassing. Many things cause rashes, including allergies, exposure to plants like poison ivy, certain illnesses such as chickenpox and measles, as well as over-reactions to foods and environmental contacts for some people. The most common skin rashes are hives and eczema—both of which are linked with allergies and sensitivities—and that is the focus of this article.
What is Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis?
Eczema refers to various skin conditions. However, it is most often used in reference to a skin condition known as Atopic Dermatitis. Atopic Dermatitis is commonly identified by a red, itchy, dry rash. Scratching will make it worse and usually spread. If you scratch for a long time, the affected area can get dark and thick. Allergists and dermatologists often refer to this type of eczema as “the itch that rashes”.
According to medical studies, a child is more prone to having eczema if his/her parents have asthma, seasonal allergies, or eczema. Moreover, it’s been found that people with eczema are more susceptible to contracting asthma or allergies. Scientists and researchers are still trying to find the definitive link between these conditions. That said, understanding the current theory about how eczema is related to allergies can make it easier to manage your skin conditions.
The Connection Between Allergy and Eczema
While eczema is not an allergy, it can flare-up if your skin comes in contact with substances that cause allergic reactions or if you eat foods that you are sensitive to. When your body overreacts to harmless substances, such as food or pollen, your immune system considers them toxins that need to be eliminated. This can result in sneezing, swelling, runny nose, or itching, hives, and rashes. Some common allergens include:
- Dust Mites
- Pet Dander and Saliva
- Certain Foods
- Chemicals in cosmetics and fabrics
- Metals such as nickel used in jewelry and buttons
There was a time when scientists believed that eczema was solely the result of allergies. However, we now understand that the link is more complex. Research into the connection between autoimmune conditions, genetics, and overexposure to chemicals in our environment and food supply are now being seen as threads woven into the fabric of the health of our skin.
And continued research into the above will shed further light on why and how supposedly harmless substances trigger atopic dermatitis and eczema outbreaks in some people and not others.
What are Hives?
Hives are raised red welts or bumps on the skin. Also called urticaria, hives are a common reaction to allergens. The spots may look like tiny blemishes or large bumps and appear on any area of your body.
Those red welts we commonly call hives occur when the chemical histamine is released by the mast cells in your bloodstream. It causes the small blood vessels under your skin to leak. That fluid pools within your skin, causing welts that usually itch.
Individual hives may last for several hours to one week. New ones may replace the ones that fade away. An acute breakout of hives can last up to six weeks; and chronic hives will linger longer.
The Connection Between Hives and Allergies
Hives can result from an allergic reaction, temperature extremes, infections, stress, and certain illnesses. In rare cases, hives may be accompanied by angioedema. Angioedema can be a life-threatening condition characterized by swelling around your throat, feet, hands, and lips and requires immediate medical attention.
Generally, hives are linked with allergens that trigger an acute skin flare-up within minutes. Some common hive producing allergens include:
- Foods, particularly tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, fruit, and milk
- Allergy shots and other medicines
- Insect stings and bites
However, in some cases, a hive breakout may not be linked with common allergens at all. These include:
- Stress or anxiety
- Infections and viruses
- Sun exposure
- Contact with certain substances
- Exposure to snow or cold water
- Friction or pressure on particular skin areas, sitting in the same position for too long, etc.
Hives that result from stimuli or physical causes (such as sun exposure, cold, or pressure) are referred to as physical hives. Discovering the exact cause of chronic hives is difficult. Sometimes, chronic hives are linked to an underlying autoimmune condition. Other times food, medicines, infections, or insects can trigger a flare-up. Although there are many triggers for acute hives, chronic hives appear to be related more to an autoimmune issue within a person’s body.
Contact dermatitis occurs when an allergen or irritant comes in touch with your skin. The symptoms of this reaction usually include burning, itching, blisters, or a rash.
Fabric softeners, laundry detergents, shampoos, soap—even too much water exposure—can result in contact dermatitis. The adverse reaction people get to chlorine present in swimming pools is also contact dermatitis. Other triggers include metals (such as nickel and alloys used in jewelry, buttons, etc.), nail polish, plants, latex gloves, topical medications, and adhesives.
In some cases, allergens will not cause skin reactions unless there is also sun exposure. This is known as photoallergic dermatitis. These allergens are often present in sunscreen, perfumes, and lotions, but can also be found in other substances and for some people even after eating certain foods.
Don’t Become Discouraged
Now that you know why skin conditions are so difficult to treat, it is easy to become discouraged. Yes, there are very many triggers that cause skin rashes, hives, and eczema. Adding to the difficulty is that a trigger for one person may not the same for another person. Some skin rashes result from exposure to allergens, while others may occur due to skin conditions such as rosacea, infections, or even damaged or dry skin. Regardless, it is encouraging to know there is hope for a skin sufferer. A holistic allergist will be able to determine your specific triggers after assessing your symptoms, providing painless allergy testing, and offering an equally painless treatment to manage it—all without the use of needles, steroid creams, or drugs.
If you suffer from allergies, and you have been unsuccessful with allergy treatments or are looking for something different, St. Louis Allergy Relief Center treats allergies holistically without the use of pain or pills. We are an allergy wellness center specializing in natural treatments. We specialize in holistic, natural allergy treatments using Advanced Allergy Therapeutics (AAT). We provide you with a detailed treatment plan after completing a comprehensive assessment to determine environmental stressors that may be triggering allergies or allergy-like symptoms. Visit our website https://stlouisallergyrelief.com/ to learn more or call us at 314-384-9304.
We also deliver community workshops as well as a free monthly informational workshop on the first Thursday of every month at 5:45 pm in our Chesterfield office. Our free monthly workshop provides the public with information on our unique approach to allergy treatments and includes an opportunity to meet with our patients for a question and answer session. If you are interested in attending one of our free monthly workshops, please call our office at 314-384-9304 to reserve your space. These workshops are currently on hold due to COVID-19 and will resume when it is safe to do so.