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4 Serious Medical Conditions You Are Mistaking For Allergies

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Atopic dermatitis, commonly referred to as eczema, is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition, and although sufferers may develop asthma and sensitivities or allergies to foods and airborne allergens, eczema itself is not an allergy. However, the skin appears very dry and inflamed, resulting in a similar appearance to allergic contact dermatitis, which is a skin allergy that occurs when a person has exposure to a particular material they are sensitive to. Board certified dermatologist Arash Akhavan, MD, FAAD, owner and founder of The Dermatology & Laser Group, sees many patients who mistake perioral dermatitis for allergy. “This is a condition where red bumps occur around the mouth,” he explains. “It is most common in young women, and although the exact etiology is unknown, some believe it may be hormone-..”

It’s the age-old question: Is it a cold or allergies? “Medical conditions that people mistake for allergies are often viral in origin,” explains Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD. “For example the rhinovirus, which is one of the top viral pathogens responsible for the common cold, has essentially the same symptoms as allergies.” Both conditions can cause watery eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing. Dr. Robert Korn, Medical Director at Northwell Health GoHealth Urgent Care, admits that an allergy diagnosis can take a bit of detective work. “If you suspect you are having allergies, a trial of an OTC non-sedating antihistamine like Zyrtec or Allegra is a good idea,” he says. “It takes two to three days to work, so don’t give up too soon! You may want to add an over-the-counter nasal steroid like Flonase if nasal discharge and itching are prominent.”

Because of how it looks and feels, a heat rash (also known as prickly heat) is often mistaken for an allergy. “Heat rash commonly occurs in hot, humid climates when someone becomes overheated (possibly from overdressing) and notices red dots or tiny pimples which are itchy, and if scratched, can become infected,” says Jennie Ann Freiman, MD. “It’s usually gone in a few days with no treatment, although a cold bath or shower is very soothing.” To help keep prickly heat at bay, avoid strenuous exercise when it is very warm, use air conditioning and fans in hot weather, take cool showers and baths, dry your skin thoroughly after bathing, wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes, and drink plenty of fluids to cool the body and to keep hydrated.

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