If you have itchy, sore, red, scaly, or inflamed skin, it’s possible that you have a skin allergy. The only problem is that there are dozens of different types of skin allergies. You’ll have to figure out which one you have, what’s causing it, and how to treat it.

Signs and Symptoms of Skin Allergies

Skin allergies, which are basically adverse reactions to various external triggers, can be brought on by any number of different causes. Common triggers include latex, pet dander, soap, poison ivy, extreme temperatures, laundry detergent, chemicals, pollen, insects, sunlight, water, medication, and food. Sometimes the cause is obvious, while other times it takes a lot of research and testing to get to the bottom of the issue.

There are several types of allergic skin conditions, including common ones like:

Eczema. This condition, also known as atopic dermatitis, commonly occurs in “flexural areas” like elbow creases or behind the knees. However, it can also occur on the eyebrows, neck, hands, and face regions. It’s characterized by dry, itchy, and red skin spots that often have a scaly appearance.

Contact dermatitis. This is a skin reaction that takes place when contact with a triggering substance irritates the skin. The most common example is poison ivy, but contact dermatitis can also be caused by nickel in jewelry, rubber, chemicals, cosmetics, and more. The rash can take on any number of symptoms, including a patchy rash similar to eczema or blisters.

Hives. This term is used to describe the sudden appearance of raised pink or red bumps with pale centers. Hives can vary in location, size, and shape. They may or may not itch. Typically, hives are caused by an allergic reaction to food, medication, insect stings, or contact with a specific material (latex).

Angioedema. This abnormal stinging and tingling sensation often accompanies hives. It’s a condition that can lead to swelling of eyes, lips, hands, and feet. In severe cases, it can lead to breathing problems and anaphylaxis.

By no means is this an exhaustive list. There are plenty of other allergic skin conditions. However, if you’re dealing with unwanted symptoms, you’ll want to start by considering these allergies first.

Tips for Treating Skin Allergies

If you’re prone to skin allergies, it’s important to know how to treat symptoms and address the underlying causes.

According to London Dermatology Clinic, “Those with asthma, eczema and hay fever are at higher risk for developing allergies of any kind including dermatitis. The tendency to have allergies runs in families although not the specific allergen itself.”

The good news is that most allergies will fade away on their own and symptoms will subside. However, here are several suggestions for treatment:

Cleanse the area. If the skin allergy is occurring in an isolated area, do your best to cleanse the area with soap and water as soon as possible. However, you should avoid using any cleansing product that could potentially have skin irritants. When in doubt, use warm water to rinse the area and then gently pat dry.

Take medication. If the symptoms are extremely bothersome – meaning lots of itching and/or swelling – try using an over-the-counter antihistamine. If you believe the problem is serious and you’re having difficulty breathing, contact a doctor right away.

Wear loose clothing. Try to avoid compression or irritation in the area for a few days (or as long as symptoms stick around). If it’s an area that must be covered, wear loose clothing.

Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated is important for a variety of reasons, but can help keep your skin healthy. This will also improve circulation and ensure the proper nutrients are being delivered to your skin (including the affected areas).

Take a cool shower. Looking for relief? Try taking a cool shower. However, you should avoid hot showers, which can lead to additional inflammation and irritation of the skin.

If your allergies become serious and/or don’t subside after a few days, see your dermatologist or doctor. They’ll be able to prescribe some stronger antihistamines or steroids to speed up the healing process.

Getting to the Root of Your Problem

At the end of the day, skin allergies should be dealt with at the root. In other words, you need to determine the underlying cause so you can actually treat what’s causing the symptoms (not just the symptoms themselves).

Typically, the best outcome is to learn what your triggers are so that you can avoid them.