Skin Allergies


Contact Dermatitis

Itchy, scaly rash on your hands? Dry, cracked lips and rash around the mouth? Scales and rashes under the eyelids? Rashes anywhere else on your body? This all could be a condition known as contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis can cause discomfort and embarrassment and is the most common skin condition among workers' compensation claims.

Contact dermatitis refers to any dermatitis arising from direct skin exposure to an exogenous substance. The dermatitis may either be allergic or irritant-induced. Irritant-induced contact dermatitis accounts for 80% of cases of contact dermatitis, and allergic-induced contact dermatitis accounts for 20% of cases. In allergic contact dermatitis, an allergen induces an immune response, while in irritant contact dermatitis the trigger substance itself directly damages the skin. Contact dermatitis is a common cause of occupational disease, accounting for 30%-40% of all occupational illnesses and 90% of occupational skin diseases. The most common sensitizer in North America is the plant oleoresin urushiol found in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Other common sensitizers in the US include nickel (jewelry), formaldehyde (clothing, nail polish), fragrances (perfume, cosmetics), preservatives (topical medications, cosmetics), rubber, and chemicals in shoes (both leather and synthetic). Hypersensitivity to a number of medications may also occur.

Tracing its relation to causative factors is difficult. However, here at The Allergy Clinic, our expert physicians with detailed knowledge about this disease process can perform special customized tests using your cosmetics, perfumes, hair products, etc, to see if these agents are causing your symptoms of contact allergy. Patch testing can help identify or confirm contact allergens and is the gold standard for contact allergen identification. Our medical staff will take a detailed history, and then you will have one on one physician consultation to come up with the best identification and treatment plan that is right for you.

Note: Information contained in this article should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a board-certified allergist to address individual medical needs.

Knock Your Eczema with Noxzema

Yes, it's true that the name, Noxzema, is derived from "Knocks Eczema". In the early 20th century, this concoction was marketed as a sunburn remedy. The pharmacist who compounded it was complimented by a grateful customer who exclaimed, " You knocked my eczema". Patients with eczema, or atopic dermatitis, are often spoiled by Houston's high humidity. But during the winter, the humidity drops and everyone's skin gets a bit drier.

Excellent care of eczema, according to fellow Texan and fellow allergist, Ernest Charlesworth, MD, begins with keeping the skin well moisturized. During winter, that may require using your Eucerin, Lubriderm or Aveeno lotion 4 or 5 times each day. Step two is to prevent the skin from itching. According to Dr. Charlesworth, "Eczema is the Itch that Rashes, not the Rash that Itches." That means that you often don't see the rash until you start scratching the skin. If you can prevent scratching the itch, you often prevent the rash. The hard part is not scratching the itch once the skin gets itchy. So how do we keep the skin itch-free? Unfortunately, many well-designed scientific studies have shown that antihistamines do little to relieve the itch of eczema.

So, what does work? Well, keeping the skin well moisturized is a good start, since dry skin itches. What else? Creams available with counter-irritants, like, well . . . Noxzema Original Cleansing Cream. And at $5 for a 10.75-ounce jar, it's a lot cheaper than some of the anti-itch eczema lotions out there. For instance, Sarna Original contains similar ingredients, but costs over twice as much. If your skin is badly irritated from the eczema, then Sarna Original and Noxzema may be too strong. Start with Sarna Sensitive or Aveeno Eczema Care for a couple weeks first. Allergies are the main trigger for eczema. Dust Mites cause eczema more frequently than any other allergen. The National Eczema Association is a wonderful patient resource.

Note: Information contained in this article should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a board-certified allergist to address individual medical needs.

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