Allergic reactions on the face can cause raised welts, swollen lips, and watering eyes. Using antihistamines and avoiding common triggers, like pollen, animal fur, and perfumed cosmetics, may help manage symptoms.
People can often treat and prevent their allergies once they know what is causing them. For example, if it becomes clear a certain facial cream is causing an allergic reaction, stopping its use may cease all symptoms.
However, the skin on the face is more sensitive than most other parts of the body, so there are many possible causes of facial allergic reactions.
This article looks at the symptoms and causes of allergic reactions on the face and how they can be treated and prevented.
Allergic reactions occur when the body’s immune system mistakes a harmless substance, such as food or pollen, for something dangerous and tries to fight against it. This causes the body to create a chemical called histamine, which triggers allergy symptoms.
The symptoms of an allergic reaction differ depending on the trigger substance, otherwise known as an allergen.
A person could develop a rash in one area after using face cream, while someone inhaling pollen could have a widespread rash.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction on the face can include:
- a rash or hives
- puffy, raised areas of skin
- small, discolored spots on the skin
- an itchy, stinging, or burning sensation
- swollen lips and eyes
- swollen tongue
- red, itchy eyes
- watering eyes
- dry or cracked skin
Symptoms of an allergic reaction may develop within seconds or minutes or gradually over several hours. Symptoms are usually mild but, in rare cases, can cause anaphylaxis, which is a life threatening condition.
Learn more about what allergic reaction rashes look like here.
Treatment depends on the type of allergy and the location and severity of the symptoms. The main treatments include:
If a person knows they will be in contact with an allergen, they can take an antihistamine beforehand to prevent or reduce an allergic reaction.
Antihistamines are available as tablets, creams, eye drops, and nasal sprays.
Creams, sprays, and eye drops that contain corticosterone can help to reduce inflammation. They can open up the airways in the nose to help with breathing difficulties.
A cool, damp cloth can relieve itchiness and reduce inflammation. These can be placed on the skin whenever necessary to ease discomfort.
For severe or persistent allergies, a doctor may recommend immunotherapy. Here, a person is gradually exposed to an increasing dose of an allergen for up to 3 years so that the body can get used to it. This can reduce how severe and how long the symptoms last.
Usually, allergic reactions can be prevented by taking antihistamines before coming into contact with allergens or by avoiding the allergens.
Other prevention strategies include:
- Food: Carefully read food labels and inquire about ingredients before handling or eating.
- Pets: Limit contact with pets and regularly clean the space they inhabit.
- Pollen: Avoid grassy and woodland areas if prone to hay fever.
- Dust mites: Use allergy-proof duvets and pillows to reduce the risk of dust mite contact.
- Mold: Keep rooms and wardrobes dry and well-ventilated to reduce mold spores.
A person might develop an allergic reaction on their face for the following reasons:
A person should see a doctor If they have severe, recurring, or worsening allergic reactions. The doctor will examine the symptoms and take a medical history, including other allergic conditions and family history.
If the allergy is severe or the cause is unknown, it may be necessary for a doctor to refer someone to a specialist clinic. Possible allergy tests include:
- skin prick testing
- blood tests
- patch testing
- elimination diet
- challenge testing
Allergies are also more likely to occur in people who have:
- other allergic conditions, such as asthma or eczema
- a family history of allergies or allergic conditions
Allergic reaction symptoms will begin to lessen once a person ceases contact with the allergen. In most cases, symptoms will occur within minutes of exposure and will typically resolve within a few hours, if not quicker.
Speak to a doctor for severe, worsening, or recurring allergies. A very severe reaction could be a sign of anaphylaxis, which requires emergency medical attention
Many things can cause an allergic reaction on the face. Most reactions are mild and can be treated with an antihistamine.
Preventing allergic reactions largely involves taking antihistamines and avoiding known allergens.