Allergy is a condition which occurs when your body does not agree with something it has ingested or come into contact with, resulting in sickness. The immune system responds to such allergen by producing chemical changes in the body to fight the disease.
Our body is exposed to millions of things on a daily basis; out of which majority do not cause any reaction from the immune system. However, sometimes, when your body comes into contact with some specific types of substances (allergens), it triggers response from the immune system, which is termed as an allergic reaction.
Types of Allergic Reactions
There are many types of allergic reactions. Some people can experience the symptoms of allergic reaction in the form of: runny nose; burning eyes; coughing; and difficulty breathing; whereas, some allergic reactions develop in the form of skin changes.
One of the forms of allergic reactions is allergic eczema, which develops as an itchy skin rash on the skin upon contact with an allergen. Allergic eczema usually develops hours after exposure to allergen which has triggered the allergic reaction.
What are the Other Names of Allergic Eczema?
Other names or Allergic Eczema are: Contact eczema; allergic contact dermatitis; contact dermatitis and allergic dermatitis.
What are the Causes of Allergic Eczema?
Coming into direct contact with an allergen is the cause of allergic eczema and is also known as “delayed allergy,” because it doesn’t produce an allergic reaction immediately. Allergic eczema can usually develop about 24 to 48 hours after exposure to the allergen.
Common triggers for allergic eczema are:
- Antibiotic ointments or creams applied on the skin can produce an allergic reaction on the skin, if any ingredient in the cream is not agreeing with the body.
- Poison ivy or other such plants that come into contact with the skin.
- Soaps and certain products used for cleaning products can produce reaction on the skin.
- Hair dye or cloth dye.
- Perfume present in soaps, cosmetics or detergents.
- Nickel, which is a metal used in making jewelry, metal buttons on jeans and belt buckles.
Allergic eczema can also occur upon exposure of the skin to chemicals in sunlight. For example, a person can develop an allergic reaction after using a sunblock and then sitting in the sun.
What are the Symptoms of Allergic Eczema?
The symptoms of allergic eczema differ from patient to patient and can also change over a period of time. Allergic eczema symptoms usually develop at the site where the skin has come into contact with the allergen. Rarely, symptoms can spread to other parts of the body.
Some of the symptoms of allergic eczema are: rash; itching, inflammation, cuts, pain, burning sensation; red bumps that can crust, drain or ooze; red, dry or rough skin; raw, scaly or thickened skin; warm and tender skin.
How is Allergic Eczema Diagnosed?
Physical examination is done to look at the skin for any signs and symptoms of allergic eczema. For better diagnosis, further testing, such as a patch test or biopsy, is done to determine the exact cause of allergic eczema.
What is a Patch Test?
Patch test comprises of placing different patches having common allergens in them on your back and leaving them there for about 48 hours. After your doctor removes these patches, he will look for any symptoms of allergic reaction under any specific patch. The skin is assessed again after a couple of days for a delayed allergic reaction. In this way, the doctor can determine what particular allergen is causing the allergic eczema.
Biopsy: If the patch test is inconclusive then skin biopsy is done of the area of allergic reaction. Biopsy is done by removing a small part of the affected skin and sent to the laboratory for testing to find other cause for allergic eczema.
What is the Treatment for Allergic Eczema?
Depending on the severity of the symptoms, treatment for allergic eczema is done. The first aid treatment consists of washing the affected skin with lot of water to remove any amount of allergen on it.
If symptoms are mild, then additional treatment may not be required. The use of a moisturizing cream is recommended to hydrate and repair the damaged skin. The use of over-the-counter corticosteroid creams is beneficial in relieving the inflammation and itching.
In case of severe symptoms of allergic eczema, prescription-strength creams or ointments can be used and even corticosteroid pills may be prescribed if required.
What’s the Prognosis of Allergic Eczema?
With the right treatment done on time, the allergic eczema can recede in two to three weeks. However, if the skin is exposed to that particular allergen again, then allergic eczema can return. It is important to identify the exact allergen which is causing the eczema and then take the necessary steps to prevent any such allergic reactions of the skin in the future.