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Skin Allergies & Testing

Itchy skin, rashes, and blisters are difficult to ignore and can interfere with daily life. Constant scratching often makes it worse and can lead to infections and scars. Our expert ENT doctors and Allergy specialists help you try to identify the cause, stop the irritation, and find relief.

TRIGGERS Skin rashes, bumps, blisters, and dry, irritated skin can be caused by an allergic reaction.  However, internal diseases, nerve disorders, drug reactions, or even pregnancy can also cause these problems.  Our ENT and Allergy physicians will determine if your skin condition is a result of an allergy or if other medical issues need to be considered. Allergy-related triggers include:

  • Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac
  • Perfumes, fragrances, and cosmetics
  • Nickel, a metal often used in jewelry
  • Cleaning products
  • Clothing fabrics including wool and polyester
  • Latex
  • Hair dye
  • New clothing, bedding, and towels
  • Antibiotic creams and ointments
  • Sunscreen ingredients
  • Extremes of heat or cold

SYMPTOMS Skin irritation can result from a number of allergic conditions.  These conditions and their symptoms include:   

Contact Dermatitis  Just as the name indicates, Contact Dermatitis is a reaction that occurs when the skin is exposed to an allergen or irritant. 

Symptoms include:

  • Rash, bumps, or blisters (usually weepy or oozing)
  • Itching
  • Redness, swelling
  • Cracked or peeling skin

We offer patch testing to common contact allergens to try to identify the cause when we suspect contact dermatitis. To relieve contact dermatitis symptoms, your specialist may suggest using an over-the-counter treatment to stop the itching, such as calamine lotion or antihistamines. A prescription corticosteroid cream may also be recommended.  

Hives (Urticaria) Hives can be due to allergies, such as foods or medications. They can also be caused by viruses, or be a result of an underlying medical condition that may or may not be diagnosed yet.  In some cases, hives can be caused by exposure to heat, cold, or pressure. Hives can also be spontaneous, or “idiopathic.”

Symptoms include:

  • Red, itchy bumps or welts
  • A rash that comes and goes or migrates from one part of the body to another.
  • May be accompanied by swelling of some parts of the body, such as the eyelids or lips.

Some episodes of hives go away on their own within a short period of time.  Others can last for months or even years.  Depending on your condition, your specialist may recommend antihistamines.  If your hives are severe, treatment may include oral corticosteroid medication or an immune modulator.  For hives that do not respond to first-line treatments, a new FDA approved injection called Omalizumab, or Xolair, offers fast and needed relief for many patients. In some cases, conditions that cause hives can also cause swelling of the lips and tongue, and difficulty breathing.  If you have any of these symptoms, you may need to have a more thorough evaluation to make sure you do not have an underlying more severe condition causing all of these symptoms. In these cases, an immediate injection with epinephrine may be necessary, followed by a visit to an emergency room.  If you have a known allergy that can cause a severe reaction, your specialist will recommend that you carry an epinephrine injector with you at all times.   

Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) Atopic Dermatitis, often called Eczema, is a chronic disease that often begins in infancy and early childhood that may persist into adulthood. In infants, it often affects their face, elbows, knees, and torso. In older children and adults, it usually affects the forearms, backs of knees, face, and elbows. 

Symptoms include:

  • Itching
  • Inflammation
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Oozing or weeping rash
  • Dryness
  • Skin pigment changes
  • Thickening of the skin
  • Skin infections in severe cases

Your specialist will help you manage your eczema by identifying allergens that cause flare-ups so that they can be avoided. Daily use of fragrance-free soaps and moisturizers can help keep skin from becoming dry. Mild to moderate symptoms may be treated with antihistamines and topical steroid creams. For more severe symptoms, corticosteroid pills or immunomodulator ointments or creams may be recommended.

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