Did you know that your body’s largest organ is your skin? For the average adult, it measures over 20 square feet. Like other organs of the body, the skin is prone to diseases and conditions, including allergies.
The tell-tale sign of allergy is inflammation. For example, the nasal passages and airways become inflamed in reaction to allergens, leading to nasal congestion and allergy-induced asthma respectively. The skin is also prone to allergic inflammation, resulting in hives and eczema.
Hives. Also known as urticaria, hives are reddish bumps that develop on the skin. They can manifest as tiny dots, or they can cluster together to form big, red blotches that are several inches wide. Hives generally flare up shortly after exposure to an allergen and subside in a day or two. In some cases, though, they may last for weeks or even years. In other instances, they may go away and come back cyclically. Related to hives is a condition called angioedema. With angioedema, people develop swollen areas underneath the surface of the skin. It is most common on the face, hands, and feet and is sometimes referred to as “giant hives.”
Eczema. Eczema does not have the same red spots as hives. Rather, it is a raised, dry, reddish and itchy rash. In some cases, it may crust over, bleed and even become infected. Children are more prone to eczema than adults. Eczema can occur anywhere on the body. In kids, it is particularly prevalent in the creases of the legs and elbows.
So what do you do if you develop allergy-related hives or eczema? You can start by visiting your doctor. He or she may be able to prescribe topical creams or antibiotics. Those medications can help with sporadic flare-ups, but if you find that your allergy-related skin conditions persist, consider allergy testing. You may discover that your hives or eczema are linked to certain types of pollen, pet dander, mold or food allergies.
If your test results, medical history, and symptoms point to the need for allergy immunotherapy, your doctor may prescribe either allergy shots or sublingual allergy immunotherapy. Both forms of immunotherapy work to desensitize the immune system to allergens so that it will stop overreacting to them in ways that lead to allergy symptoms.
Though shots used to be the most popular form of immunotherapy, many people are now gravitating toward sublingual immunotherapy drops (under-the-tongue allergy drops). The drops are safer than shots and can be taken at home. (Allergy shots must be administered at the doctor’s office.) Allergy drops for kids are often a safer bet than allergy shots.
If your skin disorders are allergy-related, remember that no amount of topical cream can eliminate the problem. Immunotherapy is the only treatment that has been shown to address the underlying allergy for long-term relief.