What to Do if You Suspect a Skin Allergy

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on May 11, 2022
2 min read

"Dear diary, the perfume lady surprise-spritzed me. Now I have a red, itchy skin rash."

If you think you have an allergic skin reaction or condition, keep a diary. Not a regular one, but a symptom diary.

Note what you come in contact with, and what symptoms you had and where. That can help you narrow down and avoid the things that may be causing your reaction. It also lets you give your doctor clues about it.

Perfumes, certain metals, dyes, and latex (rubber) are common causes of an allergic skin reaction called contact dermatitis. Foods and even some medications may trigger hives, which are another form of skin allergy. Hives are itchy and look like swollen red patches or welts on the skin.

Swelling of the deeper skin layers is called angioedema. It can happen with hives and often affects the eyelids, lips, tongue, hands, and feet.

  • Have you worn jewelry made of nickel?
  • Have you used a new hair dye, cosmetic, soap, lotion, or perfume?
  • Have you worn rubber gloves or touched rubber toys or balloons?
  • Have you used antibiotic medication on your skin?

An allergic skin reaction can start right after you touch something. You can also suddenly become allergic to something that has never bothered you before. So, don’t rule out something you’ve used for years.

Keep in mind that your symptoms may not show up for a day or two after you’re exposed.

Skin allergy symptoms often go away on their own in a week or two, but treatment may make you more comfortable in the meantime.

If you have serious symptoms like trouble breathing or swelling in your throat, they could be signs of a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Call 911 right away.

If you have severe allergies, keep two epinephrine injection kits with you at all times. If you have any sign of anaphylaxis, do not hesitate to use the epinephrine, even if you don’t think the symptoms are allergy-related. Using the auto-injector as a precaution. It will not harm you. Then go to the ER right away.