I first became aware of allergy expert Dr. Tania Elliott, EHE Chief Medical Officer, while watching a 2015 segment of the Dr. Oz Show regarding allergies. As an allergy sufferer, I made a note to watch the show in hopes of learning new information that could help me better manage my allergies and control irritations due to my having sensitive skin. During the show, I learned that allergies can change with the seasons in both triggers and severity. Dr. Elliott’s segment also reinforced that allergies and negative skin reactions are triggered by what we put on our bodies and what we put in our bodies.
The latter was message was a strong reinforcement of what I learned during a vacation to Cuba earlier in that year. It was during this trip that I was introduced to gentle, green body care products. It was also where the seed for the MASS EDEN brand was planted.
Watching Dr. Elliott’s segment was a very strong reinforcement that there is still room to better understand allergies and their relationship to sensitive skin. It is important to know that those of us who suffer from either or both are on a spectrum. Specifically, that these conditions are not linear nor mutually exclusive and we all react differently.
Dr. Elliott is a true wealth of knowledge. I always learn something new when I see her on shows such as Dr. Oz, The Drs, Live with Kelly & Michael and Good Morning America (GMA). And, based upon some of your questions regarding allergies and sensitive skin, I knew she would be the best resource to help us understand allergies and their relationship with sensitive skin. She graciously accepted an invite to participate in this interview to share her expertise.
In this interview, Dr. Elliott answers your most frequently asked allergy questions.
Who can develop allergies? At what age can allergies develop?
Allergies do not discriminate. Anyone can get them. Typically, allergies will appear in young children up to school age and between the ages of 17-40.
Help the readers understand skin and its relationship to an allergy.
Skin is the first line of defense in our immune system. It is protection from foreign objects/substances getting into our bodies and primed to develop an immune response when the body recognizes something that does not belong. So, when a foreign object/substance gets beyond the skin, our bodies will create a signal that something is not quite right. And, a negative skin reaction results.
How do people get allergies (genetics, environment, medications, etc.)?
Here are two ways people get develop allergies:
- Genetics – traits can be passed down [from your parents] to increase the likelihood of your developing allergies. Notes: 7% likelihood for siblings to have the same food allergy; 35-90% likelihood of same allergy between family members (asthma, hay fever or eczema).
- Exposure – If an object/substance gets beyond the skin, the body may recognize it as ‘problematic’ and create a signal every time the body comes in contact with it. This can happen with any product. Something as simple as a microdermabrasion or body piercing can allow a product to get under skin and create an allergy.
What are the top allergens that people should know about?
- Nickel (piercings and jewelry)
- Yang Lang / Essential Oils
- Nail Acrylic
What are some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction?
It’s important to note that symptoms and severity may vary, for the same irritant, between people who have the same trigger. But here are some of the most common allergic reaction symptoms:
- If a wound does not heal or gets infected (antibiotic or adhesive covering could be the trigger)
- Rash (itchy or not itchy)
I know that negative skin reactions can be caused by both food and body care products that contain the allergy trigger. Will an allergy manifest itself the same way if I consume a trigger and put the same trigger on my body?
No. There are different cells that react within the body: T-cells are in the skin and B-cells are in our internal parts. A response from a food allergy generates a response that can be immediate or within hours. A response from a skin allergy can occur within weeks of initial contact.
With the potential of a delayed response time, what can people do to help them identify that they’ve had an allergy triggered?
If someone experiences an irritation or continues to experience an ongoing irritation, chances are they’re experiencing an allergic reaction. In order to identify a trigger, a person can do the following:
- Read product ingredients to avoid triggers
- Do a patch test for 2x a day for 5 days before fully using a new product (behind ear lobe or forearm for creams)
- Visit a doctor to have a patch test
- Take ingredient lists of products you use to your doctor to get help
Will an allergic reaction manifest itself the same way every time a person is exposed to a specific trigger?
Yes, a response to an allergic reaction will be the same for a specific trigger. In addition, our cells have a memory that recall not only the trigger but the places on the body that were previously triggered. So, a reaction will show up the same way with each exposure and at each site on the body that has previously reacted.
Sun screen is often a big trigger for people with sensitive skin. As a result, many of us don’t wear it. How can people with sensitive or troubled skin have protection without causing more irritation?
Zinc based sunscreen is the best thing to put on to protect sensitive or troubled skin. In addition to sunscreen, protective clothing, that is light and loose, and use of an umbrella can protect skin without additional irritation.
What do you want people to know about allergies?
There a several things that people should know:
- Common eczema is caused by a food allergy: milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, seafood, for kids under the age of 1 this is most prominent
- Skin contact allergies can come from baby wipes and wheat based [food and body care] products
- People can be allergic to over-the-counter antibiotic creams and oils used to heal cuts and minor irritations; cuts, scrapes and wounds will get infected
- Anyone can develop an allergy to a product after several times of use
Learn more about the “Tell ME About It” blog series and why TL Robinson, MASS EDEN BLOG EIC, believes it is important to engage medical and wellness experts.
Interview. Dr. Tania Elliott; June 6, 2018