How to Clear Skin of an Allergic Reaction

Four Methods:Avoiding Contact with the RashApplying Soaps and Skin CreamsSeeking Professional HelpFinding Long Term Solutions

Allergic reactions in the skin are common, and most of us will experience some form of allergic reaction in our lifetime. Skin reactions are known as “contact dermatitis” for true allergies or “irritant contact dermatitis” for non-allergic reactions. Most of these reactions are responses to a common irritant and are not serious. Symptoms include flat red dots, raised red bumps, scaly areas, blisters, and a burning or itching sensation in the skin.[1] If you experience these symptoms chronically, however, it is more likely that they are eczema or atopic dermatitis. If you sporadically experience the symptoms or they seem to happen in response to a specific allergen, it is more likely that you are suffering from contact dermatitis. Happily, you can take actions at home or a doctor's office to clear skin of a reaction and provide temporary relief to itching, burning, and swelling.

Method 1
Avoiding Contact with the Rash

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    Do not scratch your rash. While your skin is likely itchy, scratching only further irritates it, and can increase the duration of the reaction and even cause it to spread further. Do not itch or touch the affected area.[2]
    • Note that if scratching is particularly tempting, try wearing gloves or mittens while at home. If this is uncomfortable for you, clipping your nails can also help. Anything to delay the instant gratification of scratching deters you from indulging in the behavior.
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    Choose loose-fitting clothing. Tight clothes can rub against a skin rash, further irritating the area. Wear loose-fitting clothing or, if possible, clothing that does not cover the affected area at all, such as shorts or t-shirts.
    • Moisture and heat of any kind can sometimes irritate a skin rash, so make sure the clothing is lightweight and made from a material that dries quickly, such as cotton.
    • If your symptoms are severe, a damp dressing may help. Find a soft cotton garment like a long-sleeve t-shirt or long underwear, soak it in cool water, wring it out, and then put it on. Wear a loose-fitting garment over the dressing.[3]
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    Refrain from conducting activities that irritate skin. During the duration of the rash, activities that lead to unnecessary skin contact and sweating should be avoided.
    • Most contact sports - like football, rugby, and hockey - should be avoided altogether as it's hard to avoid touching and further irritating the skin.
    • Exercises like aerobics, running, and weightlifting can be fine. However, sweating can be harmful for a skin rash so if you choose to participate find fast-drying workout clothing that does not have too much contact with the affected area.

Method 2
Applying Soaps and Skin Creams

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    Wash your skin right away with cool water and soap. If your outbreak was caused by external contact with an allergen, clearing that allergen from your skin right away can help lessen the severity of the reaction.[4]
    • Avoid soap products that contain sodium laurel sulfate as this chemical often irritates an allergic reaction.[5]
    • Unscented, gentle cleansers such as Dove, Aveeno, Cetaphil, or Shur-clens are good options.
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    Use lotions or ointments. Many lotions and ointments are available over-the-counter at supermarkets or drug stores that can provide immediate relief for symptoms like itching and burning. Try some of the following:
    • Calamine Lotion, which should be applied as needed unless otherwise directed. However, be careful not to leave calamine lotion on the skin too long as this can irritate the rash more.[6]
    • Aloe Vera should be applied two or three times a day until the area begins to heal.[7]
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    Try hydrocortisone cream. Hydrocortisone cream, sold at most drug stores and supermarkets, is available without a prescription and can provide temporary relief of skin rashes caused by allergens.
    • Low-strength (.5 or 1%) hydrocortisone creams are typically applied one to four times a day until symptoms begin to clear up.
    • Hydrocortisone cream comes in the form of an ointment, lotion, foam, liquid, gel, spray, and moist towelette. Choose whichever form you're most comfortable using, and follow the instructions on the label.[8]
      • Ointments tend to be more soothing to irritated skin. Lotions can sting and are best for covering larger areas.
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    Use natural treatments. For some, over-the-counter lotions and creams further irritate their skin. If that's the case for you, you may want to invest in some natural remedies.
    • Clay can provide a cooling sensation and thus decrease the need to itch a rash. Use virgin, untreated clay. Mix the clay in a bowl or cup of water until it has a creamy consistency, dab it on itchy or irritated areas, let it dry, and then peel it off. If peeling the clay is causing any further irritation, try re-wetting the clay and gently removing with a soft, wet towel.
    • Apple Cider Vinegar has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties that relieve itching. Dab a few drops on a cotton ball or washcloth and apply to the affected area.
    • Peppermint or peppermint leaves can provide an instant cooling sensation that relieves irritated skin. Crush up some peppermint leaves and rub them directly on the skin.
    • Basil leaves contain anti-itch compounds called camphor and thymol. Rubbing fresh basil leaves on the skin can relieve some symptoms.[9]
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    Try an oatmeal bath. Oatmeal's anti-inflammatory properties allow it to soothe itchy, irritated skin.[10]An oatmeal bath can help reduce or relieve symptoms. Fill a bath with lukewarm or cold water and then add half a cup of oatmeal to it. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
    • It's best to use colloidal oatmeal, which is oatmeal ground into a finer powder. It dissolves easily and leaves less mess to clean up afterwards. If unavailable, you can grind regular oatmeal into a powder using a mixer. The oats can also be placed in a muslin bag or cheesecloth and hung in the water.[11]
    • Some people find adding a few teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil to their bath helps, as it is a natural moisturizer. If you choose olive oil, be careful when getting in and out of the tub as it will make the area slippery.[12]
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    Use cool water. Sometimes the simplest solutions can be the best. Wet a soft towel or washcloth with cool water and apply to the rash 2-3 times per day for 15-30 minutes.[13] The cool water can lessen the sensation of itching and may reduce swelling as well.

Method 3
Seeking Professional Help

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    Watch for a more serious reaction. If you are having a reaction that goes beyond mere skin irritation, you should go to a doctor right away. Some indications that you may need medical intervention include:
    • The rash covers a large portion of your body
    • The rash gets worse, rather than better, with time and home treatments
    • The rash lasts longer than 1-2 weeks
    • You show signs of infection, including increased redness or pain, swelling, and drainage of pus
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    Ask a doctor about topical corticosteroid cream. Corticosteroids are a group of medications that help treat a variety of ailments. Derived from the natural corticoid hormone found in the adrenal glands, corticosteroids have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body and this makes them excellent at combating allergic responses. Corticosteroid creams, generally used to treat skin rashes, are a variety of topical steroid creams applied directly on the affected skin. Ask your doctor which corticosteroid cream might be right for you.[14]
    • Only apply the cream to the area affected by the skin rash, and only as often as and where your doctor instructs you to apply it. Once or twice a day is usually all that is necessary. Apply the cream sparingly and ask your doctor approximately how much you should use. When side effects do occur, which they rarely do, it is generally from incorrect use.
    • Many people are wary of corticosteroid creams because of the steroid factor, but this fear is mostly unfounded. Topical steroids are very safe when used correctly, and as they are not intended for longterm use the kind of dependency associated with other kinds of steroid use is uncommon.[15]
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    Try cortisone pills or shots. In rare cases, if your skin doesn’t respond to corticosteroid creams, your doctor might give you a pill or cortisone injection to help reduce the reaction.[16] If your doctor prescribes an oral corticosteroid, you should take as directed.
    • If you take blood thinners or dietary supplements that have a blood-thinning effect, your doctor might recommend avoiding such medications before the injection.[17]
    • When you receive your injection, you may have to change into a hospital gown depending on where the irritated skin is located. The area around the injection site is cleaned and an antiseptic spray may be used to numb the needle. You will likely feel pressure when the needle is inserted and the medication is then released.[18]
    • Some people report redness or a feeling of warmth of the chest or face after the injection. The doctor will likely want you to protect the area around the injection site for a day or two, apply ice as needed to relieve pain, and watch for signs of infection such as pain, redness, and swelling.[19]
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    Take an allergy test. If your allergic reactions are frequent or severe, a doctor might want to perform an allergy test. This may identify what substance is causing the allergic reaction, making it easier to avoid the substance and subsequent outbreaks in the future. There are three types of allergy tests: the skin prick test, skin patch testing, and the intradermal test.
    • The skin prick test involves placing a small amount of allergen on the skin, most often the forearm, upper back, or neck. The skin is pricked so the allergen goes under the surface, and your health care provider watches for signs of a reaction. Results are usually seen within 15 to 20 minutes and multiple allergens can be tested at the same time.
    • Skin patch testing consists of an application of various allergens to an area of skin (usually your back). The areas are covered with bandages, then reactions are evaluated a couple of days after application.[20]
    • The intradermal skin test involves injecting a small amount of the potential allergen to the skin. Your health care provider then watches for signs of a reaction. This test is more often used to find signs of serious allergens, such as bee venom or penicillin.[21]

Method 4
Finding Long Term Solutions

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    Identify what caused the reaction. As stated, an allergy test can help identify the allergen but this might not be necessary. Review your activity leading up to the reaction and see if anything obvious stands out. Poison ivy and oak, for example, are common irritants, and if you've been camping or hiking recently they may to blame. If you used any new skin products, hair products, nail products, or lotions there's a good chance these caused the reaction.
    • Ask your doctor for a list of products that commonly contain the substance that you should avoid.
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    Identify common household items that cause skin irritation. Most of us are too busy in our day-to-day lives to examine every ingredient on the mass of cleaning supplies and personal care products in our homes. Many chemicals used in common household items serve as skin irritants. Take stock of what's in your kitchen and bathroom cupboards, paying close attention to products that frequently cause allergic reactions. If one product stands out as particularly chemical-heavy, it might be best to toss it and opt for a more natural version. These products include[22]:
    • Soaps, especially dish soaps
    • Household cleaners, like window cleaner and bathroom cleaners
    • Fabric dryer sheets and laundry detergents
    • Clothing, especially rough fabrics like wool
    • Latex
    • Fragrances, like perfumes and skin sprays
    • Facial creams
    • Nickel, which can be found in jewelry, watchbands, and zippers
    • Sunscreen
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    Use moisturizers or protective barriers. Depending on your work situation, it might not be possible to avoid or even identify all potential irritants. Therefore, to avoid another allergic reaction, using skin moisturizers and protective barriers can help.
    • Use moisturizers, such as all natural lotions that include ingredients such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and propylene glycol. Such components are known to produce longer lasting moisturizers. Ideally, a good moisturizer can help skin stay strong and healthy, which helps fight off allergic reactions.[23]
    • Petroleum jelly, found in most supermarkets, can provide a protective layer over skin, lessening the exposure to irritants. It's also a good idea to put petroleum jelly over cracked, dry skin overnight to help it heal. Any open wounds or sores can increase the likelihood of skin being affected by an allergen.
    • Wearing a pair of thick rubber gloves when working with chemicals or cleaners can lessen the likelihood of direct skin contact and, therefore, an allergic reaction. Rubber gloves are a good investment for any household, and be sure to slip a pair on when cleaning your kitchen or bathroom.
    • If you do come into contact with a known or suspected allergen, time is important. The quicker you get the substance out of your system, the better. Thoroughly wash the exposed area with soap and warm water directly after exposure.


  • If you're prone to allergic reactions, keep products like moisturizers, aloe vera, and calamine lotion on hand. The quicker you deal with a reaction, the better. Having products nearby is optimal.
  • While washing the skin is important, chemical-heavy soaps can often make it worse. Opt for natural soaps with smaller ingredient lists, as such products are less taxing on the skin.
  • Many over-the-counter herbal remedies, such as snake oils, promise relief but are not FDA approved and often do not relieve symptoms. It's best to stick to tried and true methods, like the above-mentioned ointments and lotions.


  • While many skin allergies are minor, and clear up on their own with time, if you experience a fever, chills, blurred vision, coughing or wheezing, trouble breathing, swelling of lips, tongue, or extremities, or hives, seek immediate medical help as these are signs of a more severe allergic reaction that requires swift treatment.

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Categories: Allergies and Immunization | Skin Inflammation and Rashes