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Eczema, Urticaria, Skin Allergy

Skin allergies can be in the form of eczema, urticaria or other rashes.

Eczema, also referred to as atopic dermatitis is an itchy and uncomfortable skin condition that can affect people of all age groups.  It is believed to be caused by a combination of environmental allergies and genetics.  We have also seen eczema appear from food allergies.  The skin will have red, itchy, scaly rashes ranging from small localized areas on the body, to widespread and covering a majority of the body.  Most common sites include the fronts of the elbows, behind the knees, ankles, wrists and neck.  Triggers for eczema include irritants, such as soaps, lotions, perfumes, cleaning products, etc., environmental exposures, stress, and hormones.

Eczema can be a very difficult to treat condition which can cause distress to the patient and greatly impact their quality of life if not controlled.  The most important factor in controlling eczema is keeping moisture within the skin.  With daily aggressive moisturizing, you should be able to maintain clear skin with only minimal flare-ups.  A thick cream with no fragrance should be used as the first line of defense for daily moisturizing.  Vaseline can be used following the bath or shower to help lock in moisture too.  When flare-ups occur topical steroids are sometimes used.  Antihistamines can be used to help control the itching.  However, the most important aspect of good control of eczema is avoiding triggers and keeping the skin moisturized.

Urticaria, also known as hives are itchy red or skin colored raised welts.  Hives have many causes/triggers, including foods, substances, insect bites, stress, hormones and many others.  When hives appear they are typically short lived, resolving as quickly as they started.  Sometimes hives can be chronic, which means they are coming every day for more than 6 weeks.  Hives stay less than 24 hours in the same spot, they may jump around or come together (coalesce).  Keeping a journal and identifying your trigger is key to preventing hives from occurring.  Seeking advice from an allergist is often beneficial for people who suffer from hives.  When a trigger is not identified this is known as idiopathic urticaria which can be more difficult to treat.  If the typical treatment for hives (antihistamines) does not seem to gain control an allergist can prescribe a biological (Xolair) which has been shown to be highly effective in treatment of hives.

Other skin allergies: Please see “Contact and Chemical Sensitivities,” “Latex & Peri-operative Reactions,” and “Metal & Implant Reactions.”