Possible Causes of Allergic Reaction on Your Face
What Does Allergic Reaction Mean?
An allergic reaction is sensitivity to something you’ve eaten, inhaled, or touched. That “something” you’re allergic to is called an allergen. Your body interprets the allergen as foreign or harmful, and attacks as a form of protection.
You can have an allergic reaction on any part of your body. The face is a common site for allergic reactions involving your skin.
Early spring can wreak havoc on people who suffer from seasonal allergies. The blooming of new life, fresh pollen in the air, and scattering of seeds over the landscape can turn your face into a red, weepy mess.
Seasonal allergies, also called hay fever, cause a number of facial symptoms, including red, watery, itchy, and swollen eyes. Severe allergies can lead to allergic conjunctivitis, an oozing infection of the conjunctiva membranes of the eyes.
Animals and Insects
Critters of all kinds can cause allergic reactions on your face. Contrary to what you might think, people with pet allergies react not to the animal’s hair or fur, but rather to the skin cells (dander) and the animal’s saliva.
If you’re allergic to cats, dogs, or other furry friends, you are likely to sneeze and become congested. Animal-induced allergic reactions also include hives and rashes. Hives are raised bumps on the skin that are most common on your neck and face. Insect bites and stings can also produce hives and welts.
You might get an angry red rash or hives on your face if you’ve touched a substance that your body perceives as an allergen. This type of allergic reaction is called contact dermatitis. The allergen can range from poison ivy to a food you’ve eaten or a new brand of laundry detergent.
Wherever your skin has touched the offending substance, you can have a reaction. Since most people touch their faces countless times throughout the day, it’s not unusual to have contact dermatitis near your eyes or mouth.
Food allergies are one of the most common types of allergies that affect your face. The severity of food allergies varies. You may feel sick to their stomach after eating a certain food, while others may develop a rash or swelling around their lips. Hives are also a common allergic reaction to food.
A severe, life-threatening food allergy can cause your tongue and windpipe to swell up. This type of reaction, called anaphylaxis, requires immediate medical attention.
Like an allergy to food, drug allergies range in severity and types of symptoms. Skin rashes on the face and arms are common with medication allergies.
Hives, a generalized swelling of the face, and anaphylaxis can also indicate an allergy to medication.
Scaly, itchy skin that appears in patches over your face, neck, hands, or knees can signify eczema. Eczema, also known by the term atopic dermatitis, the cause is not well understood.
People who have asthma or seasonal allergies may be more likely also to suffer from the skin condition, but not necessarily. Eczema can also be associated with a food allergy.
Anaphylaxis is the most severe type of allergic reaction you can have. Anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock is the extreme reaction of your immune system to an allergen. Your body begins to shut down. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- tightness in the throat and chest
- swelling in the face, lips, and throat
- hives or a red rash throughout areas of the body
- trouble breathing or wheezing
- extreme pallor or bright flushing of the face
Call 911 or your local emergency number in the case of anaphylactic shock. If anaphylaxis is not treated, it can be fatal.
Diagnosis and Treatment
With the exception of an anaphylactic reaction, many allergies that show facial symptoms can be treated through a quick consultation with your doctor. In some cases, an over-the-counter antihistamine can help your body stop reacting to the allergen within a few short minutes.
If you aren’t sure what’s causing your rash or hives, keep a journal of your diet and activities until you start to see a pattern. And don’t forget to keep your doctor in the loop at all times.
- Allergic reactions. (2013). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved August 9, 2013, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000005.htm
- Allergies: Symptoms. (2013). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved August 9, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/allergies/DS01118/DSECTION=symptoms
- Anaphylaxis. (2013). American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Retrieved August 9, 2013, from http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/anaphylaxis.aspx
- Atopic dermatitis (eczema). (2011). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved August 9, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/eczema/
- Contact dermatitis. (2011). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved August 9, 2013, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000869.htm
- Drug allergy: Symptoms. (2011). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved August 9, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-allergy/DS01148/DSECTION=symptoms