How Allergies Affect your Skin

by Mica D. Turner, Allergy Manager, Optima Medical

Your skin is your biggest organ and keeping it healthy should be a top priority. Allergies often present themselves in skin as rashes, eczema (atopic dermatitis), urticaria (hives), dry skin and itching.

This may also be accompanied by hay fever or asthma. Allergies are the result of your immune system reacting to a particular substance in food or the environment.

Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in America. Approximately 50 million people suffer from allergies.

Many people do not realize they have allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “An allergic reaction can cause coughing, sneezing, hives, rashes, itchy eyes, runny nose and a scratchy throat.”

Allergic reactions are caused when a person’s immune system is hypersensitive to certain allergens released into the body through skin, eyes, nose or ingestion. These allergens could include foods, pets, pollen, mold or dust mites, as well as coming into contact with soaps, fabric softeners, certain chemicals, latex and jewelry.

Immunoglobulin E is a type of protein in the body called an antibody. As part of the immune system, it plays a role in allergic reactions.

Sometimes the allergic reaction is immediate and severe such as an anaphylactic shock to the body. Many times, it may not show up for a few hours in the form of hay fever, asthma, skin rash (eczema) or hives.

While food allergy symptoms are most common in children younger than 5, they can appear at any age. Common food allergens are eggs, dairy, peanuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy.

Sometimes allergies can remain dormant for a number of years and then reappear just as mysteriously as they disappeared. This can happen with food as well as environmental allergies. Some experts think this may be simply a person becoming tolerant to the allergen and reducing their immune sensitivity.

Allergy symptoms are often treatable when diagnosed properly.

Providers start with a consultation where they perform a comprehensive evaluation taking a thorough look at patients’ medical history, specific symptoms and environmental risk factors. Then they may do several diagnostics inclusive of a comprehensive bloodwork evaluation, as well as environmental and food allergy skin testing.

A treatment plan is prescribed that could be inclusive of subcutaneous allergy immunotherapy (SCIT), suggestions to make changes to work or home environment or with a specific medication regimen.