Skin allergies account for more than seven million doctors visits each year. Skin allergies, otherwise known as allergic contact dermatitis, can cause body wide hives, wheezing or other systemic symptoms. Non-allergic contact dermatitis, on the other hand, typically causes a small itchy rash and is usually a sensitivity to different substances in soaps, detergents, and fragrances. Skin allergies are a full blown allergic response to otherwise innocuous things like sunscreens, latex and even nickel. Poison Ivy is also considered a type of allergic contact dermatitis.
The “Love Rash”
I had one patient who was suffering with a chronic V-shaped rash around his neck. The dermatologist he was seeing had tried numerous cortisone creams, but the rash kept returning. I initially thought it might be from a piece of jewelry around his neck so I patch tested him for nickel and other metals as well as a panel of other potential allergens. I was surprised when his test was negative to nickel, because it’s a common allergen. Instead he showed a positive test to hair dye. He laughed when I shared my finding. He said, “I could have told you that—years ago I stopped dyeing my hair, because my scalp developed blistering rashes.” He hadn’t touched hair dye in years. Then I had a thought. I asked him if his wife colored her hair. He said, “Of course she does, she wouldn’t consider going grey.” I had my diagnosis: The “Love Rash!” Every time his wife hugged him, her hair touched his neck, seeped allergen into his skin and triggered contact dermatitis. Unfortunately, his wife hasn’t given up her hair coloring, but my patient can say he has a love rash.
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