Contact Allergy

A localised rash or irritation of the skin can be caused by contact with a foreign substance.

Contact allergies are commonly caused when skin comes into contact with items such as cosmetics, hair dye, chemicals, nickel and latex.

Symptoms of contact allergy can appear within minutes of exposure and fade away within minutes to hours or they can take anywhere from several days to weeks to heal.

In infants, symptoms typically appear on the face, arms and legs. In children 2 to 4 years, typically around the elbows, knees, ankles, head and neck. In adults, typically around the elbows, knees, ankles, wrists, hands and neck. If not treated properly scarring can occur.

Symptoms

Common symptoms include:

  • inflamed, dry, itchy skin
  • cracked, scaling or flaking skin
  • rashes
  • weeping lesions
  • swollen eyes, lips, tongue and throat (angioedema)
  • welts may be small and localised, or spread over large areas of the body
  • mild to severe itching
  • tingling and burning

Treatment

Depending on the cause, severity and reactions, symptoms can be managed and treated in a number of ways:

  • managing/avoiding allergic triggers
  • soap and detergent substitutes
  • non-soap-based washes, shower gels, shampoos and bath oils
  • moisturisers
  • emollient creams/ointments
  • corticosteroid creams/ointments
  • anti-fungal/antibacterial creams/ointments
  • antibiotics
  • wet wraps
  • antihistamines
  • immune modification or suppressants
  • ultraviolet light
  • managing/avoiding allergic triggers
  • antihistamines
  • corticosteroids
  • topical lotions
  • immunotherapy or desensitisation
  • elimination diet
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