Skin Contact Allergies

An allergic reaction of hives on the arm.
© James Heilman, MD

A skin contact allergy is also called “contact dermatitis” and is essentially a rash that may include blisters and swelling.  There are a whole host of substances that could cause such an allergic reaction, but some of the more common ones include: poison ivy, oak, or sumac, latex rubber, citrus fruit, chemicals used on hair for dying or straightening, leather, nickel, perfumes, hand soaps and other product with fragrance, bleach and other cleaners, and medications you apply directly to your skin.

This type of allergy normally has a sensitizing process where the first exposure will not cause a reaction.  Subsequent reactions will take place after your body has decided that substance is a danger.

In order for the reaction to be a true allergic reaction, your immune system must be involved.  Something may irritate your skin and cause similar symptoms, but it’s merely a surface irritation and not a response of your body from the inside out.  Surface irritations often happen very quickly upon exposure, while an allergic reaction may take a day or two to show up.

A specific type of skin contact allergy is called photoallergic contact dermatitis and occurs with sunscreens, fragrances and lotions only AFTER you’ve been out in the sun.

At Bluegrass Allergy Care, we can perform patch testing to trace the source of your rashes and determine whether you have a true allergy. We can then discuss ways for you to avoid the chemicals that cause your reaction. Call us today to schedule an appointment.