Name That Itch!

Winter months can bring on the itch as cold weather and indoor heat dry out the skin. For some people itchy, dry skin is something more: a symptom of atopic dermatitis (eczema), contact dermatitis, or hives. Skin testing by an allergy expert is the best route to long-term skin solutions, but Brian Rotskoff, MD, offers up these general guidelines for understanding your skin condition.

What is contact dermatitis?

• A chronic rash that occurs as the result of physical contact with an allergen

• Typically an allergy to metals, fragrances, plants, and cosmetics/perfumes

What is atopic dermatitis (eczema)?

• A more persistent type of eczema

• Chronic rash that appears on the limbs, scalp, neck, and cheeks

• Aggravated by environmental allergens and food allergens, as well as stress and heat

• Most common in children, with onset around age five

• Often outgrown by adolescence

What is hives (urticaria)?

• A rash that migrates from one area of the body to another within hours

• Can be short-term or chronic

• Sometimes accompanied by swelling, wheezing, and shortness of breath

• Can be spontaneous or autoimmune

• More complex to diagnose because may or may not be allergen-based