Spring brings more than windflowers and birdsong. For those who suffer from springtime skin allergies, the sudden influx of pollen, spores, and other allergens in the air may cause hives and rashes to overwhelm the skin.
From disruptive, itchy rashes to painful blisters, here’s everything you need to know about seasonal skin allergies and how to soothe them.
What is a Springtime Allergy?
Springtime allergies, also called seasonal allergies, are hypersensitivity reactions to the increased allergens in the environment. During spring, as the trees, grass, weeds, and other plants awaken and reproduce, they release a powdery substance called pollen that travels by the wind. Outdoor mold spores also begin to increase in response to rising temperatures.
Pollen and mold spores are some of the most common allergens worldwide. When people with allergies inhale or come into contact with these microscopic organisms, their immune system mistakes them for harmful substances, releasing a compound called histamine. When the body releases significant amounts of histamine, it causes different types of allergic and inflammatory reactions. In the skin, it triggers itching that can lead to redness, rashes, hives, dryness, swelling, or damage.
How Does Histamine Cause Itching?
Histamine causes itching by stimulating the nerve fibers that transmit sensations to the brain. Although the exact mechanisms behind histamine-induced itching are not fully understood, it may involve mast cells – specialized skin cells that release histamine when exposed to allergens. Once released, histamine binds to receptors on the sensory nerve fibers, triggering the distracting sensation.
Common Spring Skin Allergies
Allergy-ridden individuals long to bask in the warm spring sun. Instead, many of them hide indoors, swathed in layers of clothing and slathering on creams and lotions in a desperate attempt to soothe irritated skin. Spring may be the season of renewal, but for those with pesky skin allergies, it’s also a time of struggle and frustration.
Let’s look into the common skin allergies and the different ways to ease springtime itch.
Also called allergic rhinitis, hay fever is a prevalent allergic reaction affecting up to 1 in 5 people.
It causes incessant sneezing, congestion, watery eyes, and a deep yearning to scratch itchy skin away. Exposure to pollen, mold spores, insects, and pet dander is the most common cause.
If hay fever triggers itchy skin, it’s crucial to resist aggressive scratching to prevent aggravating any rashes. Instead, take an over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to alleviate the irritation. This class of medication treats allergy symptoms by blocking histamine from binding to its receptors.
Hives, medically known as urticaria, are a common allergic reaction affecting around 20 percent of people during their lifetime. These pink-red, itchy, raised welts on the skin vary in size and shape, appearing on one part of the body or spreading across large areas. In some cases, hives can also cause burning or stinging. They may come and go, or persist for several hours or days.
Similar to hay fever itch, treatment for hives from spring allergies may include antihistamines. In severe cases, a healthcare provider may prescribe oral or topical corticosteroids to alleviate symptoms.
In addition to allergen exposure, certain medications, viral or bacterial infections, and stress can cause hives to form. If you don’t have a history of allergies and suddenly awoke to hives on your skin, you may relieve the itch at home with an antihistamine or calamine lotion. However, ensure to see a healthcare professional if your symptoms continue (or become worse) for more than a few days.
Spring is a dust-ridden season. Pollen, pet hair and dander, shedding skin, and open windows all contribute to a dusty household during springtime. Unfortunately, airborne irritants like dust can trigger contact dermatitis, an inflammatory eczematous skin disease.
Contact dermatitis manifests as dry, cracked, itchy, and blistered skin that may ooze due to aggressive scratching. These symptoms develop within a few hours or days following exposure to an irritant.
To prevent springtime contact dermatitis, identify and avoid contact with potential allergens and irritants. Those with a history of eczema-related skin diseases may benefit from using protective gloves, clothing, and barrier creams to minimize exposure to triggers. Homeowners should also vacuum frequently and use air purifiers to reduce indoor dust in the springtime months (or throughout the year if you live in or near the dusty desert landscape of Arizona.)
If contact dermatitis occurs, topical corticosteroids or antihistamines can bring relief. In severe cases, a doctor may issue a prescription for systemic medications.
Heat rash, also referred to as prickly heat, occurs when sweat glands become clogged, trapping moisture under the skin and causing inflammation.
Characterized by small, itchy, red bumps on the skin, heat rash mostly affects areas of the body where sweat collects. The back of the knees, armpits, under the breasts, chest, elbow creases, backside, waist, and groin are the most common areas where prickly heat appears.
As temperatures rise in the spring, sweating is a normal body reaction. To prevent heat rash, it’s important to stay cool and dry. Loose-fitting clothing made from breathable materials can help prevent sweat from becoming trapped beneath the skin. Staying in air-conditioned environments and taking cool showers after a workout session can also help.
If heat- and sweat-induced rashes appear, over-the-counter antihistamines and calamine lotion can relieve symptoms. A dermatologist near you may also prescribe topical or oral medications to address severe cases.
While springtime skin allergies can be frustrating and uncomfortable, it’s important to remember that they are treatable, and there is no need to suffer in silence. By working with some of the best Buckeye dermatologists and taking proactive steps to manage symptoms, you can enjoy everything springtime has to offer.
Buckeye Dermatology can treat and diagnose your skin concerns. Whether you’re dealing with a stubborn case of rashes, a suspicious mole, or troublesome hives, our healthcare team is ready to help. Don’t let seasonal skin allergies hold you back. Schedule a consultation today, and let us help you regain confidence and comfort in your skin.