Skin being the largest organ in our body is also the most exposed organ that comes in contact with the most allergens. While drug and food allergies can be systemic in nature and may or may not involve the skin, there are some allergies like insect bite allergies and contact allergies which primarily manifest on the skin and health experts highlight that in all of these cases, it is the immune system which causes the exaggerated response to the external stimuli.
Why do we get skin allergies? Causes:
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Manasi Shirolikar, Consultant Dermatologist at drmanasiskin.com, explained, “Skin allergies are a type of hypersensitivity reaction that primarily due to contact with common allergens like peanuts, milk, egg, soya, wheat, pollens , poison ivy, metals like nickel, latex, clothing, preservatives, medication, fragrance and sometimes even makeup. A type of contact dermatitis, also known as Allergic Contact Dermatitis, skin allergies occur because of the delayed reaction of the immune system to a small molecule (allergen) that comes into contact with an already sensitised individual’s skin.”
Elaborating upon the same, Dr Sejal Saheta, Dermatologist and Veneorologist at InUrSkn, said, “The immune system plays a pivotal role in how allergies occur. Normally the immune system protects the body against any undesired foreign stimulus. It helps the body distinguish between friend and foe and also helps destroy the foe. So when your body is exposed to a new foreign particle which is causing harm to you, your body generates antibodies which attach themselves to antigens (the foreign bodies) allowing the immunity attack cells (lymphocytes) to target and destroy these antigens.”
She added, “In the process the lymphocytes also release tiny protein particles called immunity mediators (called cytokines) which tell the body that there is an enemy to fight and puts the body in a state of readiness. Thus protecting you from any harm but the trouble starts when your body and specifically your antibodies misidentify a friend as a foe. So something that is harmless to most people can cause your body to go into a state of emergency manifestation and the body itself attacks such harmless foreign bodies leading to physical across the body called an allergy.”
According to Dr Manasi Shirolikar, “The initial phase is when the skin is first exposed to the allergen, which leads to the expansion of an allergen-specific T cell population. The name for this process is sensitisation. This is, sort of the body and the immune system, giving a fair warning to itself and preparing itself. However, if the skin is re-exposed to the allergen or if there is continuous exposure to the allergen, the body and immune system get into attack and fight mode, which thus leads to the development of dermatitis.”
She added, “This happens because the immune system gets triggered, which leads to a break out of rashes, red skin, hives when it comes in contact with the allergen. They are severely itchy. While they usually settle on their own, sometimes they may spread to other parts of the body. Care has to be taken to take anti-allergic medications if you are exposed to the allergens. Rarely, you may experience swelling in the throat or around the mouth (known as angioedema) which is an emergency and must be treated ASAP in the hospital with injections.”
Dr Sayed Tahir, Cannabis Clinician Doctor at Hempstrol, claimed, “If there is one molecule that has the potential to create waves in skincare, it is CBD. I have been prescribing CBD balm to my patients with severe skin allergies such as Alopecia, Eczema, lichen planus, urticaria for quite some time now and have personally seen an improvement. Even studies have demonstrated that CBD balm can sooth allergies and repair damaged skin via its action on the endocannabinoid system which is present in skin too. One can get these benefits without breaking any laws.”