Seasonal Allergies and Itchy Skin: Causes, Relief, When to See a Doctor

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

You know that time of the year. The time when your eyes won’t stop watering, your nose feels like a leaky faucet, and you can’t stop scratching your skin.

Yes, it’s allergy season.

But is the annoying itch a part of your seasonal allergy? Or could it be something else? Should you talk to your doctor about it? In this article, we’ll answer your questions about itchy skin during allergy season.

Can seasonal allergies cause itching skin?

Most of us associate seasonal allergies with a runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes. However, there are some lesser-known symptoms as well – among them rashes and skin irritation.

So if you notice that your skin becomes itchy at a specific time of the year, it could be a seasonal allergy. But there are other allergies that can cause itchy skin:

  • Pet dander allergy
  • Allergy to dust mites
  • Some food allergies

Can pollen cause itchy nose skin?

Seasonal allergies are often referred to as “hay fever”, though they’re not necessarily caused by hay.

The cause of seasonal allergies is pollen. It’s a very fine powder that plants produce to fertilize other plants. If you’re allergic to pollen, your immune system thinks that pollen particles are dangerous invaders and starts producing defensive chemicals called histamines.

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Pollen allergies can lead to a variety of symptoms that include skin rashes, irritation and itchy skin. The itch can appear anywhere on your body, including the nose.

And since allergies often cause cold-like symptoms, you’re more likely to rub your nose a lot, which can lead to itchy nose skin.

Seasonal allergies and skin rash: what’s the connection?

Allergies can also cause different types of skin rashes. If you suffer from a pollen allergy, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Patches of red, dry, itchy skin
  • Hives (red, swollen bumps that turn white when you press on them)

Not everyone with a seasonal allergy gets a rash. But if you do, it’s best to talk to your doctor. They can give you tests to find out what causes your allergy and suggest treatment options.

Other possible reasons for itchy skin during allergy season

Not every itch is a pollen allergy. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, itchy skin can be caused by a variety of factors.

Dry skin

Dry skin can be itchy. Fortunately, you can keep your skin healthy with simple self-care tips:

  • Use moisturizing products formulated for dry skin
  • Make sure you use gentle cleansers on your skin
  • Limit baths and showers to around 5 minutes and don’t use hot water
  • Wear gloves when gardening, washing dishes, or cleaning
  • Use a humidifier in your bedroom
  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30

If your skin doesn’t get better, consult a dermatologist.

Bug bites

Insect and mite bites can be very itchy. Some common culprits are bed bugs, head lice and so-called human itch mites that cause a disease named scabies. But even mosquito bites can itch quite a bit if you scratch them.

If you suspect that your itch is caused by bug bites, talk to your doctor. They’ll help you identify what bit you and offer treatment.

A woman with itchy skin

Skin diseases

There are many diseases that cause itchy skin. They include:

  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Neurodermatitis
  • Ringworm
  • Shingles
  • Some forms of skin cancer

To get relief, you need to get a diagnosis first. A dermatologist will help you find out which condition you have.

Diseases inside your body

Itchy skin can be a sign of kidney, liver, or blood disease. People whose thyroid gland is overactive can also feel itchy.

This is why your dermatologist may refer you to other doctors for a diagnosis. Once doctors know what disease you have, they’ll offer treatment options.

Touching a plant that causes rashes

Touching some plants, such as poison ivy, can lead to skin reactions. In fact, there are quite a few plants that can make you itch, including common garden crops like tomatoes and strawberries.

Make sure you wear gloves and long sleeves when gardening.

If you happen to touch a plant that gives you rashes, wash your hands immediately.

Swimmer’s itch

This itchy condition is also known as cercarial dermatitis. It’s caused by parasites that live in lakes and oceans. Just like pollen allergies, it’s more common in the summer months.

To prevent swimmer’s itch, make sure you dry yourself with a towel after getting out of the water.

Side effects of medications

Some meds can cause your skin to itch. They include:

  • Certain types of blood pressure medications
  • Powerful painkillers called opioids
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Some psychiatric meds
  • Some antibiotics

If you suspect your itch is caused by a new medication you’re taking, talk to the doctor who prescribed it. They may suggest a different drug or offer treatments that will stop the itching

Nerve problems

A damaged nerve can cause your skin to itch. This is called neuropathic itch.

There are many health conditions that can cause neuropathic itch. Some of them are:

  • Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage that causes symptoms in your hands and feet)
  • Shingles
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis

This kind of itch doesn’t go away with usual treatments. Instead, you may need to wear protective clothing or use meds that numb your skin.

How to relieve allergy-induced skin itch

The best way to prevent allergy-induced itching is to stay indoors and avoid contact with allergens. However, this isn’t realistic. No matter how hard you try, you’re still likely to come into contact with pollen and get that annoying itch.

However, you’re not doomed! Seasonal allergies can give you itchy skin, but there are many ways to find relief.

Antihistamines

These are medications that relieve allergy symptoms. As the name suggests, they reduce or block histamines (the defensive chemicals that your body makes).

Antihistamines don’t cure the allergy itself, but they still give you a break from symptoms.

They come in a variety of forms: liquids, tablets, creams, nasal sprays, and so on. Some are available without a prescription. Note that antihistamines can cause dehydration, so it’s important to drink plenty of water.

Topical steroids

While the name sounds scary, topical steroids are just creams that calm itchy and inflamed skin. The most well-known topical steroid is called hydrocortisone cream.

Topical steroids work by blocking certain chemical reactions that lead to inflammation, itching, and rashes. They’re used to treat a variety of skin conditions, but they will only work if you apply them according to your doctor’s recommendations.

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While some hydrocortisone creams are available without a prescription, it’s better to ask your healthcare provider for advice before using them. Your doctor can help you choose the right product and explain how to use it correctly.

Moisturizers

It’s important to moisturize itchy skin. However, you should opt for products that don’t contain any fragrances or other additives that could potentially irritate your skin even further.

Cream to treat dry itchy skin

Natural remedies

You can also use natural treatments to reduce itching. Here are some options to try:

  • Cold compresses reduce blood flow to the affected area of the skin and can bring quick relief from itching
  • Cold showers can work well too, for the same reason
  • Oatmeal suspension is an FDA-approved product that can be dissolved in a bath to treat a variety of skin conditions (but remember that it’s possible to be allergic to oats!)
  • Aloe vera is another plant-based treatment that you can try. If you have an aloe plant at home, you can cut open a leaf, squeeze out the gel that’s inside, and apply this gel to your skin. Alternatively, you can get aloe-based creams at a drugstore
  • Simply reducing your overall stress levels can help with itchy skin. There are many natural ways to relieve stress, such as listening to music, doing breathing exercises or even laughing at something funny

Remember that natural remedies aren’t a replacement for medicines prescribed by your doctor. Sometimes they can even make your condition worse.

When to see a doctor about itchy skin

Sometimes cold compresses and over-the-counter meds are all you need to stop that itch. But you’ll need to see your healthcare provider if:

  • The itch doesn’t go away within a couple of weeks
  • The itch is so strong that it prevents you from sleeping and going about your day
  • You suspect that your itch is caused by a recently prescribed medication
  • You can’t explain what caused the itching
  • The itching affects your whole body
  • You experience other symptoms such as difficulty breathing, increases heart rate, pale skin, dizziness, night sweats or a fever
  • You take meds that might interact with over-the-counter allergy medications
  • The itch appeared suddenly after taking certain medications or food

Treatment depends on the cause of the itch. Sometimes it’s possible to cure the underlying disease. Some itch-causing health conditions (including allergies) can’t be cured, but you can still manage the symptoms and enjoy a full life by following your doctor’s advice and taking meds exactly as prescribed.

Key takeaways

Seasonal allergies are caused by pollen, a powder produced by plants. They can cause a variety of symptoms, including rashes and itchy skin.

However, there are other reasons why your skin may itch in the spring and summer: bug bites, swimmer’s itch, or touching certain plants. In addition to this, itching can be caused by medications or underlying diseases. Or maybe your skin is just too dry.

There are many treatments for itchy skin that range from simple cold compresses to prescription medications. The choice of treatment depends on what caused the itch, so it’s important to see a doctor if your itch is very severe or doesn’t go away on its own.

July 19, 2022