Your skin is exposed to a lot. As the largest organ of the body, it absorbs whatever you apply — lotion, makeup, creams — and acts as a front line of defense against the elements. 

You might’ve had the concerning experience of discovering an allergic skin reaction or body rash. Finding irritated, red, and blotchy skin can be scary, especially if you’re not sure of the cause. Redness, itching, and irritation of the skin are your body’s ways of telling you something is wrong. 

Sometimes skin rashes are a sign of something chronic. But oftentimes a skin reaction is a temporary allergy you can treat right from home. 

In many instances, you can uncover the cause of your skin irritation, treat it, and prevent it from happening again. 

Common Skin Allergies 

When your skin comes in contact with an irritant, your immune system tries to rid your body of the intruder. This might present as a rash, itching, redness, swelling, raised bumps, scaling, cracking, or flaking skin. 

If you’re experiencing the reaction over a long period of time (more than a few hours), it might be one of 3 of the most common skin conditions caused by an allergic reaction. 

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is an itchy inflammation of the skin. It’s incredibly common and is sometimes accompanied by seasonal allergies. People with chronic eczema may experience flare-ups seasonally or at unpredictable intervals. 

Eczema looks like thick patches of dry, scaly skin that are red or brownish-grey in color. The area might crack or have raised bumps, and might release fluid if scratched open. 

Contact dermatitis occurs when your skin has had direct contact with an irritant, such as clothing or a piece of jewelry. The skin might appear red and patchy and will be itchy.  

Hives are patches of raised, red, itchy welts varying in size. Hives typically show up in larger patches than eczema and don’t release fluid when scratched. 

Identify the Cause of Skin Allergies 

First, figure out what’s causing the problem so you can stop exposure immediately. 

Contact dermatitis can be the easiest skin condition to deal with since the skin immediately touching the irritant reacts. Hives and eczema may or may not be reacting to something in direct contact with the skin. 

Instead, they could be the result of a food allergy, too much exposure to the sun, or something else you’ve ingested. Some people even experience a flare-up of skin irritation in response to stress. 

The most common culprits for skin allergies are: 

  • Nickel
  • Fragrances in lotion, perfume, deodorant, or other personal care products 
  • Cleaners or laundry detergents (specifically the preservatives and metals in them) 
  • Antibiotic creams
  • Latex
  • Poison ivy, poison oak, or sumac 

Beyond irritation from direct exposure, your skin allergy could be due to: 

  • Food
  • Medications 
  • Supplements 
  • Sun 
  • Stress 

Look closely at the irritated area. Where does it start and end? What is that skin exposed to that the rest of your body isn’t? 

Then think about when the reaction started and any lifestyle changes you’ve made since then. Have you started using a new lotion, laundry detergent, or perfume? Did you get a new item of clothing, a new blanket, or a new set of sheets? Did you go on a hike with exposed skin? 

Make a list of all the changes you notice today. If the skin condition persists, keep a list every day of what you’ve been in contact with and what you haven’t exposed yourself to. This will allow you to look back after several days and notice revealing patterns. 

How to Treat Skin Allergies

While you do some detective work to figure out what’s irritating your skin, there are a few options for treating skin allergies right from home. 

  • Avoid further irritation. Wear loose clothing that doesn’t restrict or further irritate the area.
  • Use cold. Apply a cool compress to the area. Soak a soft washcloth or old item of clothing in cool water. Wring it out, then apply it to the area for 10 to 15 minutes. If the irritated area is too big for a compress, take a cold shower instead. 
  • Apply over-the-counter creams. Skin allergy medicine such as calamine lotion and hydrocortisone creams can help reduce swelling and irritation from a skin allergy. Check the ingredients list on the bottles and the expiration dates before applying. 
  • Take an oatmeal bath. This old chicken pox remedy has stuck around for a reason. Oatmeal creates a protective barrier around your skin that soothes irritation and moisturizes. 

Draw a lukewarm bath. Be sure it’s not too hot — this could irritate your skin further. Add 1 cup of oats to the water as you run the bath. Get in the tub and soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Afterward, rinse the oatmeal off and gently pat your skin — don’t rub — with a clean towel. 

Apply an unscented moisturizer once your skin is dry. 

  • Apply aloe. Aloe vera is another age-old remedy for skin irritation. You can get it straight from the source by purchasing an aloe leaf from a health food store and scraping out the gel inside. 

If you purchase a bottle of aloe instead, check the ingredients and purchase one with as few as possible as additional additives could irritate your skin further. 

  • Make a baking soda paste. Raid your pantry for baking soda. Create a paste by mixing together 4 parts baking soda with 12 parts water. Apply this to the irritated area and let sit for 10 minutes. Rinse the area with cool water and pat dry. 
  • Try menthol essential oil. If you have mint essential oil on hand, dilute it in water or a neutral carrier oil (such as jojoba or sunflower) and apply it to the irritation. Allow it to soak into the area and notice how your skin reacts. Start with a small area first to see how your skin responds. 
  • Moisturize with care. All skin needs moisture, but not all moisturizers are alike. Opt for one with a short ingredient list and without fragrance. When trying a new moisturizer, apply to a small area of skin first to make sure it doesn’t cause a reaction. Once you know your skin likes it, apply liberally and often. 

Try one method at a time so you can observe how your skin reacts and what brings you skin allergy relief. If you don’t see a change after several hours, try another method. 

When to Seek Treatment for Skin Allergies 

If the problems persist after treating your rash from allergies at home, it’s time to call a doctor. 

Seeing an online dermatologist is a great alternative to seeing one in person. With a myCallADoc subscription, you can speak with a dermatologist for an affordable, convenient telehealth visit.  

They’ll examine the area and figure out what’s going on. Best of all, you don’t need insurance to receive the care you deserve. 

As you get older, you might find that your skin is more sensitive and quick to react to irritants. A myCallADoc dermatologist can help you better understand what your skin is telling you about your health so you can make the proper adjustments. 

With regular visits, your doctor will help you stay on top of changes to your skin and any unexpected reactions. 

Learn more about how to get an online dermatologist and what kinds of skin allergies we help treat >

Disclaimer: This article is not intended as medical advice. Always check with your doctor before embarking on a health and wellness plan.

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