The National Institutes of Health (NIH) define an allergy as “an immune response or reaction to substances that are usually not harmful.” One out of every five Americans suffers from some form of allergies and about seven percent of allergy sufferers are affected by skin allergies, reports the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Skin problems such as eczema, hives and contact dermatitis often occur as a reaction to a food allergy or to an allergen that has touched the skin.
Allergen Triggers that Affect the Skin
Sometimes it can take individuals suffering from skin issues caused by allergens a while to determine the exact trigger. However, there are several common allergens that affect many people. These include but are not limited to:
- Plants: poison ivy, oak and sumac
- Juice from foods such as mangoes, which contain urushiol (also found in poison ivy)
- Weather: high heat and humidity
- Certain foods: dairy products, nuts, eggs, wheat and soy
Skin contact with the chemicals and dyes found in common cleaning and personal care products also may trigger various skin conditions, resulting in contact dermatitis.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Allergic Contact Dermatitis typically presents as an itchy, red rash sometimes with bumps. Severe cases may include tenderness to the area, swelling, burning sensation or even blisters. The reaction varies from individual to individual depending on many factors such as length of exposure and how strong the substance was that triggered the allergy. In addition, some people have a stronger genetic disposition to be affected by allergens.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common triggers for allergic contact dermatitis include:
- Poison ivy and mango
- Nickel (found in jewelry, buckles)
- Camphor, eucalyptus and rosemary found in personal care and beauty product
- Black henna and skin tattooing inks
- Balsam of Peru found in beauty products and even flavorings
- Formaldehyde found in cleaners and solvents
Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis
Typically, people who suffer from eczema have had the condition since infancy or early childhood. Often, eczema flare-ups are triggered by food allergies but also can be caused by allergic rhinitis and asthma, states the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). Contact with allergen triggers such as dust mites, animal dander, materials such as wool or even certain laundry detergents, shampoos and body soaps can cause an eczema rash.
Young children may suffer from eczema after eating certain foods that trigger an allergic response. Food allergies vary and may include common foods such as wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, and even ginger.
For anyone genetically disposed to suffer from allergies, allergen triggers seem to lurk everywhere. Sometimes skin issues can occur even when precautions have been taken to avoid known allergens. Stress can trigger eczema and in extreme cases may even cause hives. Some prepackaged food items such as sauces may contain soy, which can trigger an allergic reaction in many people.
For allergy sufferers, it is extremely important to label read all ingredients and to know what is in a meal before eating.