What Is Allergic Eczema?
When your body comes into contact with something that could make
you sick, your immune system promotes chemical changes to help your body ward
You’re exposed to thousands of substances each day, and most don’t
cause your immune system to react. In some cases, however, you may come into contact
with certain substances that trigger an immune system response, even if they
aren’t typically harmful to the body. These substances are known as allergens.
When your body reacts to them, it causes an allergic reaction.
An allergic reaction can take a number of forms. Some people
experience difficulty breathing, coughing, burning eyes, and a runny nose when
they’re having an allergic reaction. Other allergic reactions cause changes in
Allergic eczema is an itchy skin rash that develops when you come
into contact with an allergen. The condition often occurs hours after you’ve
been exposed to the substance that triggered the allergic reaction.
Allergic eczema is also known as:
- allergic dermatitis
- contact dermatitis
- allergic contact dermatitis
- contact eczema
What Causes Allergic Eczema?
Allergic eczema occurs when you come into direct contact with an
allergen. The condition is known as a “delayed allergy” because it doesn’t
trigger an allergic reaction right away. The symptoms of allergic eczema may
not develop for 24 to 48 hours after you’ve come into contact with the
Some common triggers for allergic eczema include:
- nickel, which can be found in jewelry, belt
buckles, and metal buttons on jeans
- perfumes found in cosmetics
- clothing dyes
- hair dye
- soaps and cleaning products
- poison ivy and other plants
- antibiotic creams or ointments that are used on
the skin, such as neomycin
Allergic eczema may also develop when the skin is exposed to
chemicals in the presence of sunlight. For example, an allergic reaction can
occur after using sunscreen and spending time in the sun.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Allergic Eczema
The symptoms of allergic eczema can vary from person to person.
They may also change over time. Symptoms typically develop where contact with
the allergen has occurred. In rare cases, symptoms might spread to other areas
of the body.
Common symptoms include:
- a burning sensation or pain
- red bumps that may ooze, drain, or crust
- warm, tender skin
- scaly, raw, or thickened skin
- dry, red, or rough skin
How Is Allergic Eczema Diagnosed?
Your doctor will first examine your skin to determine whether you
have allergic eczema. If they suspect you have the condition, they’ll need to
do further testing to find out exactly what you’re allergic to. In most cases,
an epicutaneous or patch test will be used.
During this test, patches that contain common allergens are
placed on your back. These patches remain in place for 48 hours. When your
doctor removes the patches, they’ll check for symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Your doctor will check your skin again after two more days to see if you have a
delayed allergic reaction.
Other tests will be needed if your doctor isn’t able to make a diagnosis
based on the patch test. Your doctor may perform a skin lesion biopsy to make sure
another health condition isn’t causing your skin condition. During the biopsy,
your doctor will remove a small sample of the affected skin and send it to a laboratory
How Is Allergic Eczema Treated?
Treatment for allergic eczema depends on the severity of your
symptoms. In all cases, however, it’s important to wash the affected skin with
plenty of water to remove traces of the allergen.
You may not need additional treatment if your symptoms are mild
and don’t bother you. However, you might want to use a moisturizing cream to
keep the skin hydrated and repair damage. Over-the-counter corticosteroid
creams can help with itching and inflammation.
Your doctor may recommend prescription-strength ointments or
creams if your symptoms are severe. They may also prescribe corticosteroid
pills if needed.
What Is the Long-Term Outlook for People
with Allergic Eczema?
With the proper treatment, you can expect allergic eczema to
clear up within two to three weeks. However, the condition may return if you’re
exposed to the allergen again. Identifying the allergen that caused your eczema
and taking steps to avoid it are critical to preventing future reactions.