Skin Allergies Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

Skin allergies occur after exposure to some allergen that triggers an immune system response. There are several common types of skin allergies, including hives, eczema (atopic dermatitis), and contact allergies known as contact dermatitis. All skin allergies are caused by an immune system reaction to some allergen.

This article will detail how common skin allergies are, who gets them, and why seeking support from your healthcare provider for skin allergies is important.

Woman scratching her arm


How Common Are Skin Allergies?

Some 9.2 million, or 2.6%, of children have skin allergies. The most common skin condition related to skin allergy is eczema, sometimes referred to as atopic dermatitis. It’s particularly common in infants. Up to 1 in 5 infants may experience eczema, and it affects some 1% to 3% of adults.

Hives (urticaria) are another particularly common skin condition associated with allergies. Hives are red, itchy bumps on the skin that can be acute (lasting less than 24 hours) or chronic (new hives appearing for longer than six weeks).

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Swelling under the skin associated with hives (angioedema​​) can be a medical emergency. If you or someone you know is experiencing swelling in the mouth or throat or are having difficulties breathing, call 911.

Skin Allergy by Ethnicity

Data from 2018 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that the U.S. populations with the greatest prevalence for skin allergies—making up 20% of all people with allergies—are Black Americans and White Americans. When surveyed, about 18% of Black children and 11% of White children experienced skin allergies within the past year. 

Skin Allergy by Age and Gender

Skin allergies can occur at any age and across all genders. But on average, skin allergies do occur more often in young children than adults.

Age and Skin Allergy Prevalance
Age Prevalance
 0–4 years  14.3%
 5–11 years  12.3%
 12–17 years  11.4%

Gender doesn’t seem to play a significant role in whether someone experiences skin allergies. Skin allergy prevalence in cisgender men is 12.2%, and in cisgender women, it’s 12.9%.

Causes of Skin Allergies and Risk Factors

It may be difficult to determine the exact cause of your skin irritation or skin allergy. If you’re unsure of what is causing your skin allergy, it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider. 

Common substances associated with contact skin allergies include:

  • Latex, pet dander, or plants like poison ivy
  • Sudden cold or hot temperatures
  • Pollen
  • Sunlight
  • Water
  • Certain foods
  • Insects
  • Drugs (reactions and side effects)

Skin allergies can also occur because of:

  • Immune system disorders
  • Medication side effects
  • Infections

Factors that may cause someone to develop skin allergies include:

  • Hormones 
  • Stress
  • Smoke
  • Perfume
  • Other environmental irritants 

Plants: Common Contact Allergy

Poison sumac, poison ivy, and poison oak are all plants native to North America. Their leaves contain oil that irritates most people’s skin and causes a reaction. If you come into contact with these plants, the affected skin area may blister, swell, and itch.  Skin allergy due to plants may not occur immediately. Contact your healthcare provider if this happens.

What Are Mortality Rates for Skin Allergies?

An extremely rare skin allergy symptom is the life-threatening anaphylactic shock. This reaction can cause your blood pressure to drop and your throat to swell, making breathing challenging. Data suggests fatal anaphylaxis is less than 1% of the total mortality risk.

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing anaphylactic shock, call 911, as this is a medical emergency. An injection of epinephrine is necessary to stop the reaction and relax the airways again. 

Hospital Visits Due to Skin Allergy

Some 217,00 emergency room visits are caused by contact dermatitis or atopic dermatitis, according to the CDC's 2018 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.

Screening and Early Detection

The first step to preventing an allergic reaction is detecting that you have an allergy in the first place. This isn’t always possible before exposure to an allergen, so if you are suspicious about a possible skin allergy, consider taking note to discuss with your healthcare provider.

Ask your primary care provider for a referral to an allergist for allergy testing and a dermatologist for treatment. 

How Screening for Allergy Works

Screening for skin allergy will require exposure to common skin allergens. If you experience a reaction, it means you have an allergy to that substance.

When you know what causes your skin allergy, you can try to avoid that substance to prevent a reaction.

Screening is particularly important if you’re at risk for or have ever experienced an anaphylactic reaction to any allergen. In this case, your healthcare provider can discuss your personal risk factors and explain how to safely give yourself an epinephrine injection (EpiPen) to prevent anaphylactic shock if and when necessary. 

Nationwide Children’s Hospital lists the most common causes of death from severe allergies as waiting too long to use epinephrine during an allergic reaction and not having the autoinjector available when a reaction happens.


Skin allergies are not uncommon. While they mostly affect young children and affect Black children more often than White children, skin allergies can occur in anyone. Causes are wide and range from immune system disorders to contact allergy to medication side effects to infection and more.

A Word From Verywell

If you suspect you have a skin allergy, don't hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider for testing. Knowing what causes your skin allergy is necessary to help you avoid the allergen and be prepared for possible reactions.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health summary health statistics: National health interview survey, 2018 table C-2a, page 1 of 6.

  2. American Academy of Allergy and Asthma Immunology. Skin allergy.

  3. American Association of Dermatology. Hives

  4. Tarbox JA, Bansal A, Peiris AN. Angioedema. JAMA. 2018;319(19):2054. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.4860

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National ambulatory medical care survey: 2018 national summary tables

  6. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. What is an allergic skin condition?

  7. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Allergy.

  8. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Allergens: Poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac.

  9. Turner P. Jerschow J, Umasunthar T, Lin R, Campbell DE, Boyle RJ. Fatal anaphylaxis: Mortality rate and risk factors. The journal of allergy and clinical immunology. In practice. 2017;5(5):1169–1178. doi:10.1016/j.jaip.2017.06.031

  10. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Testing and diagnosis.

  11. Food and Drug Administration. Epipen label.

  12. Nationwide Children’s. Epinephrine auto-injectors for severe allergic reaction (Adrenaclick®, Auvi-Q®, EpiPen®, Symjepi®)

By Michelle Pugle
Michelle Pugle, BA, MA, is an expert health writer with nearly a decade of contributing accurate and accessible health news and information to authority websites and print magazines. Her work focuses on lifestyle management, chronic illness, and mental health. Michelle is the author of Ana, Mia & Me: A Memoir From an Anorexic Teen Mind.