The summer months are now here and that means plenty of heat. Often during these months our skin become subject to being dry, itchy, and irritated. Skin allergies become more pronounce and can easily become inflamed. Also the exposure to certain plants and bugs also can result in some type of skin disorder. In order to keep yourself smooth and itch-free this summer, you need to know how to recognize dermatitis and how to treat it.
Why am I Itchy?
There are two main types of skin allergies—contact dermatitis (CD) and atopic dermatitis, or eczema. Though the symptoms are similar, they are two very different conditions. First, we’ll look at contact dermatitis, which can strike anyone.
CD is characterized by rash, redness, swelling, hives or blisters on the skin. Sometimes, CD is the result of an allergic reaction or sensitivity to a particular substance or material. Allergies are often genetic, but skin sensitivity can happen anytime, regardless of family history. The most frequent cause of CD is an allergy to poison ivy, oak or sumac. Allergies to latex and metal, especially nickel, are also quite common.
Many typical CD triggers are found around the house. It is possible to develop a sudden sensitivity to a product you’ve used for years. Some typical CD triggers are hair dye, clothing, especially leather, cosmetics, nail care products, lotion and sunscreen, perfume and topical medications. Eighty percent of the time, a case of CD occurs after direct contact with the irritating substance, and symptoms often appear within 48 hours.
Eczema, the second type of skin allergy, is most common in babies and children, although it can last into adulthood. Of people who had childhood eczema, about 20% still have it as adults. It is often due to genetic predisposition and related to high levels of immunoglobulin E, the main allergy antibody. It is characterized by bumps and rough patches on the skin, but also displays the symptoms of CD during flare-ups.
A variety of factors can trigger an eczema flare-up. Among them are viral, fungal and bacterial infections, food allergies, stress and inhaled substances like dust mites, pollen and animal allergens. Now, let’s look at some natural ways to treat these irritating skin allergies.
Calming the Itch
A skin allergy is simply an inflammation, so keeping the skin comfortable and well-hydrated should be your main objectives. For minor cases of skin allergies that do not cause great discomfort, cold compresses will keep the skin relaxed and ease irritation. It is very important not to itch, as this will exacerbate inflammation.
Eczema sufferers and anyone with severe dermatitis should practice keeping the skin hydrated by taking lukewarm, not hot, baths, patting skin dry with a towel and applying gentle, unscented moisturizer right away. Oatmeal baths can be soothing as well.
Temperature is an important factor in how you treat skin allergies. Stay indoors as much as possible in hot weather to avoid sweating, which causes itchiness. In cold weather, use a humidifier so skin doesn’t dry out and become itchy. It also helps to wear loose clothing and natural fabrics, which are less likely to cause irritation.
Many of my patients have found success by supplementing these strategies with alternative therapies. There is evidence that acupuncture is effective at treating allergies. Biofeedback can help reduce stress, decreasing your chance of an eczema flare-up.
With the many available treatments for skin allergies, you have the power to enjoy a comfortable, itch-free summer. Remember that your doctor can help devise a treatment program that suits your needs. In the meantime, take care of your skin naturally by staying relaxed and enjoying the season.