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Could It Be an Allergy?

Telling the difference between an allergic reaction and something else can be tricky.

When You Can't Figure It Out on Your Own

Sometimes it's nearly impossible to tell if you're having an allergy short of being examined by a doctor. The prime example: a skin allergy from contact with a substance.

"For the person who is having the symptoms, there is probably no defining difference between allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis – both are going to irritate the skin the same way," Goldsobel says. Unless you're tested, it's not really possible to tell if you're having an immune response or not. But in the end, the solution is usually the same – avoid contact with whatever is causing the irritation.

If allergy symptoms continue to bother you and at-home treatments (including avoidance of symptom triggers) fail to work, or if you're still unable to tell if you're having an allergy or something else, then it's time to talk to your primary physician or see an allergist for a full evaluation.

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Reviewed on March 04, 2010

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