Skip to content

    Allergies Health Center

    Font Size

    Skin Allergies: What Your Doctor Will Do

    When you break out in a rash, it's natural to wonder: Did I touch something I'm allergic to?

    An allergist or dermatologist can help you figure it out. You probably don't need a doctor if you know your rash is linked to a specific trigger you can avoid, or if you have a mild reaction that clears up on its own.

    Recommended Related to Allergies

    Smog: Not an Allergen, but an Irritant

    For people with allergies and asthma, sometimes the very air they breathe can be bad for their health. That’s because a variety of pollutants in our air -- collectively called smog -- can aggravate asthma and allergy symptoms, leaving people with these conditions struggling to breathe.

    Read the Smog: Not an Allergen, but an Irritant article > >

    But make an appointment if you have any doubts.

    Testing for Skin Allergies

    If you brush up against something and you get a rash, your doctor may tell you that you've got "contact dermatitis." It happens when your skin touches something you're sensitive or allergic to.

    He’ll examine you and ask whether you recently came in contact with common allergy triggers like perfume, jewelry, or latex.

    If he thinks an allergy may be the cause, you might get a "patch" test. He'll put patches on you that have tiny amounts of things that could cause an allergic reaction.

    They have to stay dry, so you can't shower or bathe during the test period. You need to avoid sweating, too. After 48 hours, your doctor will look at your skin to see if you have a reaction to anything. He may schedule another follow-up a few days later to check again.

    In rare cases, he may want to do a blood test or a biopsy. For a biopsy, he’ll take a small sample of your skin for testing.

    Treating Skin Contact Allergies

    How you handle your condition depends on what causes it. Many times, you can simply avoid the things that trigger your symptoms. You can also use cold compresses, calamine lotion, or an oatmeal bath to soothe skin and relieve itchiness.

    For small areas, your doctor may prescribe a steroid cream. Follow his instructions on how to put it on. It won't help if you use more or take it more often than he recommends.  

    To get the most out of the cream, put it on after a bath or shower. If your reaction covers a larger area, your doctor may suggest steroid pills and antihistamines.

    It's important to avoid your allergy trigger if you get hives (red, itchy welts on the surface of your skin) or swelling beneath your skin.

    In case your doctor can't figure out the cause, he may recommend over-the-counter or prescription antihistamine pills.

    If your skin gets infected because it's open and raw, you may need an antibiotic to clear it up. Symptoms of an infection include:

    • Swelling or redness
    • Heat
    • Pus
    • Tender, crusty skin


    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on April 13, 2016

    Today on WebMD

    man blowing nose
    Make these tweaks to your diet, home, and lifestyle.
    Allergy capsule
    Breathe easier with these products.
    cat on couch
    Live in harmony with your cat or dog.
    Woman sneezing with tissue in meadow
    Which ones affect you?

    blowing nose
    woman with sore throat
    lone star tick
    Woman blowing nose

    Send yourself a link to download the app.

    Loading ...

    Please wait...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    cat lying on shelf
    Allergy prick test
    Man sneezing into tissue
    Woman holding feather duster up to face, twitching