Do I Have a Hay Fever Rash?

hay fever rash
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Hay fever is another term for allergic rhinitis. The term "hay fever" itself can be a bit misleading since it's not really caused by a hay allergy, nor does this condition typically result in a fever. It probably got this name because plant pollens are often to blame and symptoms may be worse during the spring, fall or summer. When farming was more common in the U.S. many people probably often developed symptoms while working with hay on a farm.

What Is Hay Fever?

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to certain types of pollen. Common causes of hay fever include allergies to grass, trees, and weeds. However, all kinds of allergies can cause this condition even dust mites or mold spores.

Symptoms may include a runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, and sometimes a skin rash. You are more likely to get a skin rash as a symptom of hay fever if you come into contact with a plant you are allergic too. For example, if you come into contact with a plant you are allergic to while weeding your garden you could develop a skin rash.

Different Types of Hay Fever Rash

There's actually more than one type of rash associated with allergic rhinitis (hay fever). Allergic dermatitis or hives is the type of rash you might develop if you have skin contact with something you're allergic to but eczema can also be associated with hay fever. We'll discuss each of these skin conditions in this article, what they look like and what you can do about them.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

This type of rash is usually red, swollen, bumpy or scaly and very itchy. The amount of time that occurs between when you touch a triggering substance and when the rash appears is variable and you may be surprised to know that you can develop a rash after having skin contact with a plant or substance you have been able to touch previously without developing a rash.

It's always a good idea to see a doctor if you're experiencing a rash for the first time. Do not delay seeing a doctor since contact dermatitis can become infected with bacteria or other germs if not treated promptly.

If you don't know what you're allergic to a specialty doctor called an immunologist can perform certain tests to identify the culprit. This may include blood tests or skin patch testing. Once you know what substance you are allergic to you will want to take measures to avoid the substance in the future to prevent future problems. The more you are exposed to the triggering substance the more severe your symptoms may be.

Topical steroid creams (hydrocortisone, betamethasone, clobetasol) are a common treatment for allergic contact dermatitis. Cold compresses, calamine lotion or colloidal oatmeal baths may soothe irritated, itchy skin. Identifying and avoiding the triggering substance will be key in healing your skin rash. For severe allergies, you may consider immunotherapy (allergy shots).

Hives

Hives are red raised bumps (also called weals) that occur along with some swelling of the skin (angioedema). Like allergic contact dermatitis hives are usually itchy.

Allergy testing may be necessary to determine what triggered your hives. Again, identifying and avoiding this substance will be very important.

Treatment may include steroids or antihistamines. Hives usually go away not too long after you stop being exposed to the triggering substance.

Eczema

Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is another type of skin rash that can be associated with hay fever. However, it is different than hives or allergic contact dermatitis. For one thing, it tends to be more chronic in nature rather than appearing say after you've weeded your garden. It can develop quite a while after you've been exposed to a triggering substance, a phenomenon called lag time.

Eczema is an extremely common condition in the United States, it may affect an astounding 30 percent of the population. Children seem to be more prone to it than adults. Some kids grow out of it.

Eczema can be red, itchy or painful and the skin may also look or feel dry and scaly. Patches of eczema commonly occur on the face, elbows, insides of the knees, hands, and feet. Like most rashes it's itchy and scratching will only make it worse.

Identifying eczema triggers can be difficult and other factors including stress and dry skin can contribute to a flare up if you're prone to this skin condition. Irritants such as soap, lotions or other chemicals can also cause eczema to flare up or make it worse.

The association between eczema and hay fever is twofold. Not only is pollen a known trigger for eczema rashes but genetically speaking individuals who develop eczema are known to be more likely to have problems with hay fever and asthma. Hay fever is not the only type of allergic condition associated with eczema. It is also associated with food allergies and other sensitivities.

Because dry skin seems to make eczema worse it is important to keep your skin hydrated by drinking plenty of water and using a moisturizer a couple of times per day. Topical steroids such as hydrocortisone are commonly recommended to treat eczema and to relieve itching. Try to identify agents that seem to make your condition worse such as strong soaps or detergents and avoid them.

Treating Hay Fever and Associated Skin Conditions

Many of the treatments that you normally use to control your hay fever symptoms can also be beneficial in preventing and treating associated skin rashes.

Avoiding the triggering substance is crucial. If you have not yet been able to pinpoint the cause of your symptoms you should consult a doctor who is qualified to do allergy testing. You may need to change your clothes after spending time outside, keep your windows closed when pollen counts are high or take other precautions to help you avoid certain allergens.

Immunotherapy (allergy shots), may be an option that can reduce symptoms or even cure your hay fever. This treatment continues to evolve in ways making it more cost-effective, convenient and less painful (many sublingual versions are now available or will be made available in the future). Discuss immunotherapy with your doctor to see if this is a good option for you.

Certain antihistamines including fexofenadine and diphenhydramine can help with skin rashes like hives. If you are looking for an antihistamine that specifically helps skin rashes talk to your doctor or pharmacists. Antihistamines typically treat hives very effectively, but many rashes do not respond to antihistamines.

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