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Skin Allergies

A skin allergy is an allergic reaction to a typically harmless substance that comes into contact with the skin, triggering a response from the body’s immune system. 

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Medically Reviewed November 2023, by Dr. Susan Mayou (GMC: 2405092) - founder of the Cadogan Clinic and one of the world's leading dermatologists

What are skin allergies?

A Skin Allergy is an allergic reaction which shows through symptoms on the skin. This is usually a reaction to a substance which is harmless to most people, but can prompt an immune system response in the form of an allergic reaction in others. This usually results in the affected area of skin becoming red, inflamed, and itchy. As well as being uncomfortable and even painful, it can cause a great deal of distress and embarrassment for the person concerned. Allergic reactions can be triggered by numerous substances including, but not exclusive to, perfumed soaps, dust mites, laundry detergent, hot and cold temperatures, pollen and wool.

Skin Allergies is an umbrella term that covers a range of conditions. There are four skin conditions which can occur dur to Skin Allergies:

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Also known as Atopic Dermatitis, Eczema is a chronic skin disorder that appears as a dry skin rash. It commonly develops during infancy, but it can appear at any time during a person’s life. It’s most commonly found behind the knees, in elbow creases and on the hands and fingers, but it may also occur on the eyebrows, neck and face. Eczema is a very common condition to occur due to a Skin Allergy with an estimated one in nine people in the UK having been diagnosed with the condition at some point in their lives.

Contact Dermatitis occurs when the skin comes in contact with something which causes irritation or an allergic reaction, usually resulting in a pink or red itchy rash. Irritants may include soaps or perfumes, disinfectants, dust or powders, chalky or heavily chlorinated water and certain plants, such as mustards. Symptoms can be made worse by heat, cold and low humidity.

The rash looks similar to Eczema, but it only appears on the part of skin that has been in direct contact with the allergen. This is most commonly the hands, arms, feet, neck and face.

Also known by its medical name Urticaria, Hives are itchy red, pink or white raised bumps that can appear anywhere on the face or body. Although Hives often disappear within 24 hours, they may linger for anywhere up to six weeks.

Allergens that may trigger Hives include food, such as peanuts or shellfish, certain medications, insect bites or stings, and latex.

This is a more serious reaction to an allergen that causes swelling in the deeper layers of skin. A person may also experience swelling of the airways, which could cause significant breathing problems, which is a medical emergency.

A person with Angioedema may also experience swelling of the eyes, lips, hands or feet which may be accompanied by a tingling or stinging sensation. Hives are often present alongside Angioedema.

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The cost of Skin Allergies

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£ 250

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We successfully treat hundreds of allergy cases each year. Our team of ten highly experienced specialist dermatologists have been handpicked to form one of the best independent dermatology units in the country

Our specialists have the highest levels of training and qualifications

We work with major bodies and organisations to ensure standards are maintained. These include The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD), Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the General Medical Council (GMC)

Our purpose-built dermatology clinic is conveniently located off Sloane Square, Chelsea

What are skin allergy symptoms?

Skin Allergy symptoms vary depending the allergen involved and the severity of the allergy.

Generally, the presence of one or more of the following symptoms after contact with an allergen indicates that a person is suffering from Skin Allergies.

  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Weeping
  • Raised bumps
  • Scaly skin
  • Cracked skin
  • Flaking skin

It is possible that your reaction to allergens may change, and you may experience different symptoms when you have another exposure. It is important that you are aware of any changes in symptoms and inform your dermatologist of these.

How are skin allergies diagnosed?

It is important that Skin Allergies are diagnosed properly so you can treat them appropriately and avoid allergens to prevent any future flare-ups.

When you book a consultation with one of the Cadogan Clinic’s expert dermatologists, you will be asked questions about your medical history and about potential allergens that you may be coming into contact with. This will help the dermatologist build up a picture of when and where your skin is being exposed to potential allergens. You may be asked to bring in any items from home which you believe may be triggering your symptoms, such as soaps and cosmetics, and a list of ingredients of household products that you use which may also be causing flare-ups, such as laundry detergent.

The next step of the diagnostic process is to carry out tests in order to pinpoint exactly what is causing the skin allergy. Although it is tempting, it is important to not take any antihistamines during the testing period as this may interfere with the results.

Patch Testing

In order to establish the cause, a patch test will be carried out. Each suspected allergen will be applied to your back using a small disc, measuring around 1cm in diameter. These discs are taped in place and left for 48 hours, or until your next visit to the clinic. When the discs are removed by your dermatologist, any areas of skin that have reacted will show the substances you are allergic to. Sometimes additional patches may be added at this visit to establish any extra allergens. It is important that these do not get wet, so you should avoid showers, baths, swimming and any excessive sweating for this 48 hour period. Patch testing is painless and does not involve any needles. It is also a good way of diagnosing skin allergies in children.

If the dermatologist suspects a reaction to sunlight, then part of your arm or back may be exposed to UV light for photopatch testing.


Skin Prick Testing

Another method used to diagnose Skin Allergies is skin prick testing. This particular method involves putting a drop of liquid onto your forearm that contains a substance you may be allergic to. The skin under the drop is then gently pricked. If you are allergic to the substance that has been introduced, you should expect to see the appearance of an itchy red bump within 15 minutes. The test is not painful, although some people may find it a bit uncomfortable. Blood tests may be used alongside skin prick testing to aid the diagnostic process. A blood sample will be analysed for specific antibodies produced by the immune system in response to an allergen.

Food Elimination

If the dermatologist suspects that you are suffering from a food allergy, they may ask you to embark on try a food elimination diet. This means cutting out a certain foods or foods to see if the skin allergy symptoms improve. After a period of time you may be asked to try the food again to see if you have a reaction. Occasionally a test called a food challenge may also be used to diagnose a food allergy. In this particular test, you will be asked to eat the food you think you may be allergic to. The amount will be gradually increased to see how you react. This test can only be done under strict medical supervision at the clinic. It is not suitable for everyone, but it is the most accurate way of diagnosing a food allergy.

It is very important that you do not try any sort of allergy diet without medical advice. You should always follow all the directions issued by your dermatologist.

The NHS does not recommend the use of commercial allergy-testing kits as these are often unreliable and of a lower standard than those used by the NHS and private clinics. Rest assured, we use only the highest quality and most cutting-edge diagnostic tools and methods here at the Cadogan Clinic.

How are skin allergies treated?

Once your dermatologist has identified the allergens, then the best way to prevent reactions from occurring is to avoid these triggers, for example by not eating certain foods or using certain products on your skin. However, we recognise that this is not always practical, so it is advisable to take steps to minimise the risk of allergic reactions occurring. For example, Introducing hypoallergenic products such as skincare or household cleaning products into your routines.

Skin Allergies can be treated using lotions, creams and medicines, depending on the severity of symptoms.

Antihistamines are the most common type of medicine used to treat Skin Allergies and come in various forms, including tablets, liquid, creams and lotions. 

Antihistamines are typically used to treat hay fever and other allergies, where the body mistakes harmless substances like pollen as a threat and releases histamine to fight them off, resulting in typical allergy symptoms, including red and itchy skin. Antihistamines block the effects of histamine, providing relief from the symptoms. 

They can be used to treat the symptoms of an allergic reaction as well as being used as a preventative measure if you know you are likely to encounter your allergen, for example, if you have to go outside on a day when the pollen count is high.

Emollients are moisturising treatments, in the form of ointment, cream or lotion, which are applied directly to the affected area of skin on a daily basis to reduce water loss and cover the skin with a protective film to protect the skin from allergens. These moisturising creams provide relief to red and itchy skin. Some emollients are also anti-inflammatories. 

Emollients can be purchased over-the-counter and are most suitable for more mild cases of skin allergies.

Topical Corticosteroids may be prescribed if the affected skin is sore and inflamed. These vary in strength, depending on the severity of the inflammation, and are applied directly to the skin. 

Although steroid creams are highly effective as a skin allergy treatment, long-term use can lead to side effects, although this is rare. Speak to your dermatologist if you have any concerns.

These tablets may be prescribed for a short course of five to seven days to help control particularly severe symptom flare-ups, for example in severe cases of Eczema. This is not always suitable as a long course of treatment as Corticosteroid tablets carry a risk of potentially serious side effects when used long term.

Also known as Phototherapy, this type of treatment delivers a carefully measured dose of ultraviolet light to reduce the inflammatory response in the skin. There are three types of Phototherapy available – broadband UVB, narrowband UVB, and UVA. Light Therapy is a great way of treating Skin Allergies which have not responded to other forms of treatment. Regular sessions will be needed for you to enjoy the full benefit of this treatment. 

Calamine is an over-the-counter product that is applied directly to the skin to soothe and treat itchy skin caused by mild sunburn, reactions to insect bites and similar complaints. It is available as a lotion or a cream and is best suited for cases of mild skin irritation.

What to expect during your consultation

You will meet with one of our highly trained dermatologists at the Cadogan Clinic on Sloane Street, Chelsea for an in-person assessment of your skin.

Your consultant will discuss the following with you at this consultation:

  • The current concerns that you have with your skin
  • Your medical history
  • Any previous issues you have had with your skin
  • Any known allergies you have
  • The potential allergens that may be affecting your skin
  • The best testing methods to diagnose your allergies
  • The most suitable treatment plan for you

3 Easy Steps

  • Contact our dedicated non-surgical patient advisors who will book a consultation with the best dermatologist to address your concerns.
  • Visit our dedicated dermatology clinic to see your dermatologist and undergo any testing required
  • Return to see your dermatologist to discuss the results and start your treatment plan

Cadogan Clinic. A strong tradition of innovation

Founded in 2004 by world renown dermatologist Dr Susan Mayou, we now work with over 100 leading consultants and successfully treat over 20,000 patients each year. We have been winning industry awards since inception.

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Skin Allergies Specialists

We have invited a selection of the country's very best consultants to join us at the Cadogan Clinic so that you can be sure that whatever the nature of your treatment, you will be seeing one of the top practitioners in the country.

How To Find Us

The Cadogan Clinic is based at 120 Sloane Street in Chelsea, just off Sloane Square and the Kings Road.

We are accessible by all major bus routes that pass through Sloane Square and Sloane Street, as well as Sloane Square tube station.

We are just a 5 minute walk northwards up Sloane Street once you have arrived at Sloane Square.

Local pay parking is available just around the corner from the Clinic on Cadogan Gate, Cadogan Square and Cadogan Gardens. Our local residential parking zone is the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.

Address: 120 Sloane Street, Chelsea, London, SW1X 9BW


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