Allergic reactions triggered by the skin touching something are very common. This type of allergy is called contact allergy or ‘contact dermatitis’. Dermatitis is another word for eczema, and it is a type of inflammation of the skin.

There are actually two types of contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. Irritant contact dermatitis usually occurs from prolonged exposure to an irritating substance like a detergent or a solvent, whereas allergic contact dermatitis is a true allergic reaction to a substance.

Some common allergens include nickel, chemicals in hair dye, fragrances, and preservatives in creams and cosmetics. It is not known why some people develop allergy to these substances while others do not.

Symptoms include itching, soreness, redness, and even small blisters or cracks.

If you think you have an undiagnosed contact allergy you should speak to your GP who may refer you to a patch testing clinic. There, experts will conduct a patch test, whereby different allergens are tested on small areas of skin to check if they cause an allergic reaction.

There is no cure for an allergy to a substance, but once you have identified the source it may be easier to avoid in future.

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