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Name That Itch: Allergic Skin Conditions













CHICAGO, Nov. 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Winter months can bring on the itch as cold weather and indoor heat dry out the skin. It's possible, suggests Chicago allergist, Brian Rotskoff, MD of Clarity Allergy Center, that your winter itch could be caused by more than just the weather. For some people itchy, dry skin is just that, but for others it can be a symptom of atopic dermatitis (eczema), contact dermatitis, or hives (urticaria). Before stocking up on skin soothers, Dr. Rotskoff suggests getting a better handle on your exact condition. His practice specializes in allergy skin testing, as well as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), allergy drops/allergy shots, asthma, childhood nasal allergies, and the full range of sinus and allergic conditions.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20121116/NY15182)

"Chronic skin rashes can be very frustrating, not to mention uncomfortable," sympathizes Dr. Rotskoff. "With patch testing, I can isolate potential allergens that may be causing chronic eczema or contact dermatitis. If the results are positive, I help patients create avoidance plans to minimize their exposure and reduce future outbreaks. This is especially important for children at risk of angioedema."

Skin testing by an allergy expert is the best route to long-term skin solutions, but Dr. Rotskoff offers up these general guidelines for understanding your skin condition.

What is contact dermatitis?

  • Chronic rash that occurs as the result of physical contact with an allergen
  • Typically an allergy to metals, fragrances, plants, and cosmetics/perfumes

What is atopic dermatitis (eczema)?

  • A more persistent type of eczema
  • Chronic rash that appears on the limbs, scalp, neck, and cheeks
  • Aggravated by environmental allergens and food allergens, as well as stress and heat
  • Most common in children, with onset around age 5
  • Often outgrown by adolescence

What are hives (urticaria)?

  • A rash that migrates from one area of the body to another within hours
  • Can be short-term (less than 6 weeks) or chronic (months or years)
  • Sometimes accompanied by angioedema (swelling), wheezing, and shortness-of-breath
  • Can be idiopathic (spontaneous) or autoimmune (reaction-based)
  • More complex to diagnose because may or may not be allergen-based

"Whether a patient's skin condition is linked to allergies or not, there are several things that can be done to limit irritation and improve comfort," adds Dr. Rotskoff. "Daily strategies like applying thick moisturizers after bathing, using hypoallergenic detergent, and keeping your house temperature below  76 degrees can help. It's best to avoid long, hot baths or showers, harsh soaps, and fragranced or perfumed products."

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