The daffodils and forsythia are starting to flower, the days are getting warmer, and with the arrival of spring, so too comes itchy skin. According to CareMount Medical Dermatologist, Brent D. Wainwright, MD, FAAD, the main offenders are invisible allergens in the air, pollen and mold.
When susceptible individuals are exposed to pollen, the immune system is activated, initiating an inflammatory reaction caused by histamine, a natural substance released by the body to fight the allergy. This not only leads to itchy eyes and sneezing but may also irritate the skin.
Fortunately, simple preventative measures can be taken to minimize or eliminate unnecessary exposures:
• The use of a daily facial lotion with SPF will enhance the skin’s barrier function while also working to protect against sunburn.
• Wearing sunglasses or glasses helps protect the eyes, keeping pollen and other irritants away. Eyewear can also help to reduce irritation and redness caused by allergens.
• Avoid touching or rubbing the eye area since this can bring allergens in direct contact with the face or increase redness, swelling and the appearance of fine lines/wrinkles. Rubbing the delicate eye area may also contribute to dark circles. Cool compresses and eye drops can be used to help ease swelling and redness.
• Use protective clothing when working outside in your yard or garden, and particularly if you go hiking in order to further minimize exposure to other environmental allergens that can cause contact dermatitis. Poison ivy is a great example of a common allergen that can cause a blistering skin rash; the culprit resin called urushiol, can remain active on dried plants for years. Unwashed gloves and clothing can also cause a rash a year or two later. If your clothes have been exposed to poison ivy, don't touch exposed skin or eyes until they have been washed.
• Showering before getting into bed also helps reduce irritation by removing pollen from your hair and skin.
In addition to preventive measures, Dr. Wainwright suggests that people with more severe reactions to allergens may benefit from medications such as antihistamines, eye drops or steroids creams. He recommends speaking with your doctor before taking any medications, even if they don’t require a prescription.