Skin irritation, rashes, and itching can be signs of skin or contact allergy. If those affected come into contact with the decisive allergen, the skin usually reacts within a few minutes. An allergy test by the doctor can confirm the suspected diagnosis and determine appropriate therapy. A contact allergy is caused by the contact of an allergenic stimulus (allergen) with the skin. Allergic contact dermatitis, another name for contact allergy, is caused by substances that come into direct contact with the skin. Contact allergies also include sun allergies. The allergic reaction (hypersensitivity) of the skin can also manifest itself as hives (urticaria).
The symptoms of contact allergy show up at the point where the allergenic substance has acted, but can later “spread”. The hands are most often affected, but other parts of the body (feet, face, skin under the bra or button) can also be affected. The skin irritation leads to redness, blistering, oozing, and crusting. These symptoms of contact allergy are mostly associated with itching. If the contact eczema persists for a long time, the skin flakes and thickens. Allergic eczema usually occurs within minutes, less often in 1 to 4 days after contact with the triggering substance. An allergy test can be used to find out which substances the body is allergic to.
Symptoms Of Chronic Contact Allergy
Chronic skin changes can be observed if contact allergies repeatedly occur in the same area over the years. The skin becomes coarser (lichenification) and excessively cornified (hyperkeratosis). In addition, cracks (fissures) – sometimes deep – develop in the skin.
As with allergies as a whole, the exact causes of contact allergies have not been unequivocally researched. The course of the allergic reaction, however, does. A detailed description can be found under Allergies. In a nutshell: In the case of an allergic reaction, the body’s own defense system, the immune system, overshoots its target. It fights supposed “enemies” and thereby triggers allergic symptoms. In the case of contact allergy, the immune system reacts to stimuli that act on the skin. Stimuli or substances that often trigger a contact allergy are:
- Metals such as nickel or chrome (trouser buttons, belt buckles, jewelry)
- Leather, rubber
- externally applied drugs, e.g. B. Ointments containing antibiotics
- Detergents and cleaning agents
- Colorings and preservatives
If the symptoms of a contact allergy appear in the mouth and face area or in the lining of the throat or larynx, you should consult a doctor. Likewise, breathing difficulties, severe diarrhea, or a disturbed general condition with fever, nausea, or dizziness accompany the allergic reaction. It is also useful to see a doctor if contact eczema does not improve or if you do not know the cause of a persistent rash. The doctor may do an allergy test to confirm the suspected diagnosis. Once the allergen has been identified, treatment can begin.
So-called antihistamines are mainly used in the drug treatment of contact allergies. These are active ingredients such as azelastine, loratadine, levocabastine, clemastine, or cetirizine. Antihistamines inhibit the activity of histamine. This in turn is a messenger substance that significantly influences the allergic reaction. Severe cases of contact eczema are treated with cortisone. Depending on the location and severity of the contact dermatitis, the medication is administered as a plaster, ointment, or tablet.
Self-Help With Contact Allergy
The most effective form of self-help with contact allergy is to avoid contact with allergens. So if you are allergic to costume jewelry with nickel, it is better not to wear it anymore – not even for once. Or if you have an allergy to preservatives, you can use make-up from the health food store or pharmacy.
You can get ointments and tablets with the antihistamines already mentioned against the itching of contact allergies without a prescription in the pharmacy.
The first piece of advice for preventing contact allergies is: Avoid allergens! The following tips will help:
- Wash new clothes before wearing them for the first time.
- Avoid using cosmetics or perfumes when sunbathing (exception: sunscreen).
- When working with chemicals (e.g. cleaning agents, paints), it is best to wear PVC gloves and cotton gloves underneath.
- Do not wear costume jewelry with nickel or chrome on your skin.
- Use allergy-tested skin cleansers and cosmetics.
- Care for endangered skin areas with ointments or creams.