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After months of enduring the drying effects from cold air, seasonal allergy sufferers face continued skin issues during springtime as pollen levels peak.
“We see a lot of skin changes due to the different weather conditions, like sunburn and dry skin from cold air, but to talk about seasonal allergies and how they affect the skin is really important,” Dr. Rajani Katta, clinical assistant professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said.
When it comes to the effects of seasonal allergies on the skin, there are five main areas of concern for those who suffer from pollen and other allergens.
Constant rubbing leads to skin changes
Constant rubbing of itchy skin can actually cause further skin irritation and changes, according to Katta. This is especially an issue for children who are constantly rubbing their itchy eyes. Adults suffer from this too, though, Katta said.
“For adults, it gives you an older appearance and in children you can see red, irritated skin,” Katta said.
Katta recommends wearing large sunglasses outside as a reminder not to scratch or rub one’s eyes. For children, adults should remind them to keep their hands away from their faces as much as possible.
Those with dripping noses will often push the tip of their nose up to wipe it, performing the “allergic salute," according to Dr. Clifford Bassett, founder and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York. This action can lead to a nasal crease, or a line on their nose that develops from constant rubbing.
Constant rubbing can also lead to an accentuation of the skin fold around the eyes. When someone has irritated skin, the area below the eyes can form an extra line of skin, called a Dennie-Morgan fold. The fold occurs due to swelling that occurs from skin inflammation.
“You’ll see this a lot in people who have eczema and seasonal allergies,” Katta said.
Atopic dermatitis, more commonly known as eczema, can be brought on or worsened by seasonal allergies, according to Bassett. Ezcema can be made worse by the rubbing and scratching that is brought on by seasonal allergies.
Adults and children are affected by eczema on different parts of the body. Bassett recommends using over-the-counter creams or prescription steroid creams to fight eczema.
When you have a lot of nasal or sinus congestion, there is a lot of extra fluid in your veins. This fluid can also cause congestion in the small veins that are under your skin. Skin under the eyes is very thin, explains Katta, so swollen veins in that area will be much more prominent and the purplish veins will show through the skin.
“That’s why people who have a lot of nasal and sinus congestion will have dark circles under their eyes,” Katta said.
“Allergic shiners” is the name typically given to allergy-induced watery eyes that are accompanied by dark circles.
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Protein contact dermatitis
Common allergens, such as pollen, are proteins that often cause nasal congestion, explains Katta. Such proteins do not usually cause skin rashes, but pose a larger threat for those that have eczema. Those with eczema on their eyelids are even more at risk as skin on the eyelids is extremely thin and sensitive.
“If your skin barrier isn’t working very well and that protein lands on your skin, it can actually then trigger a rash and we’ll see redness, itching and swelling,” Katta said.
For this issue, Katta again recommends wearing big sunglasses.
“Do anything you can do to keep that protein from landing on your eyelids,” Katta said.
Hives and rashes
Although hives and rashes are not the most common presentation of effects from seasonal allergens, Bassett finds that patients often visit due to agitations from these symptoms. Bassett recommends first treating itchy skin with antihistamines, then seeing a dermatologist or allergist if that does not work.
Contact rashes are also a risk for those gardening and coming into contact with plants like poison ivy.
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