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There are many factors that can cause skin irritations and allergies. Some of the factors include heat, immune system disorders, medication and infections. We’ll be looking at the symptoms and treatments of:

  • Dermatitis (Eczema)
  • Urticaria (Hives)
  • Angioedema

Dermatitis (Eczema)

Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when your skin comes in direct contact with and allergen i.e. an object you may be allergic to. Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a chronic skin condition related to immune dysfunction in the layers of the skin. Atopic dermatitis is often associated with asthma, allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or food allergy, and usually begins in infancy or early childhood. The allergic reaction can come from touching plants such as poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac, and also by touching clothing and pets.

Urticaria (Hives)

Inflammation of the skin triggered when the immune system releases histamine, causing small blood vessels to leak leading to swelling in the skin, is a description of Hives. There are two types of hives – acute and chronic. Acute cases are triggered by eating a particular food or coming in contact with a particular substance. Chronic hives can last for months or even years. Hives can result from non-allergic causes such as heat or exercise and can also be an allergic reaction to medications, foods or insect bites. Note: Although uncomfortable and sometimes painful; eczema & hives are not contagious.


Angioedema is swelling in the deep layers of the skin, often seen with hives and occurs mostly in soft tissue areas such as eyes, mouth or genitals. Acute angioedema lasts only for a short time caused by an allergic reaction to medications or foods. Chronic angioedema is when the condition returns over a long period of time, and often doesn’t have an identifiable cause. There is also Hereditary angioedema (HAE) which is rare but serious. This condition involves swelling in various body parts including the hands, feet, face, intestinal wall and airways.

Allergy symptoms

Most common symptoms of skin allergies are;

  • Redness
  • swelling
  • itching.

However, there are some differences that help determine the diagnosis of specific conditions.

Dermatitis (Eczema) Symptoms

  • Itchy bumps
  • blisters or very dry skin
  • Appear as red to brownish-grey coloured patches may “weep” or leak fluid that crusts over when scratched

Urticaria (Hives) Symptoms – swelling or raised red or white bumps or welts that;

  • Can cover large areas and migrate from one spot to another
  • Itch
  • Range in size
  • Appear anywhere on the body

Angioedema Symptoms

  • often appears on the face, around the eyes, cheeks or lips
  • This deeper layer of swelling can also occur on hands or feet, genitals, inside the bowels or throat

Treatment for skin allergies

Skin conditions are one of the most common forms of allergy treated conditions and can be managed by an allergist, which is a physician with specialised training and expertise of the skin who will accurately diagnose.

Dermatitis (Eczema) is best left unscratched, as scratching can cause bleeding and skin infections. Try applying cold compresses, creams and/or ointments recommended by a Pharmacist and/or allergist. Avoid using soap products that contain sodium laurel sulfate.

Urticaria (Hives) If the skin allergy is identified as hives, you can manage the condition by avoiding the trigger. Treatment of hives is usually successful with oral antihistamines that control the itch and recurrence of the rash. Always seek professional advice before taking any over the counter medication.