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Rosacea and allergies: is there a link?

Before I got a rosacea diagnosis, I'd spent many years grappling with sensitive skin. As someone who has suffered from multiple allergies including hayfever, for most of my adult life, I attributed many of these flare ups, associated rashes and increasing redness to changes in my own personal sensitivities.


It took me quite a while to seek professional help for my skin and when I got a rosacea diagnosis, it made sense. I also started to wonder if I’d had the condition for significantly longer than I thought – and that I might have been confusing some allergy symptoms for rosacea flare ups. I was interested to understand if there was a broader connection between the two.


Interestingly, while the exact cause of rosacea is not fully understood, there is evidence to suggest that allergies may play a role in its development and exacerbation.


Allergies

Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to a substance that is normally harmless, such as pollen, animal hair or fur, or certain foods. Allergies can cause a range of symptoms, from sneezing and itching to hives and anaphylaxis. The relationship between allergies and rosacea is not clear, but some studies suggest that there may be a connection.


Types of Allergies that may contribute to Rosacea

There are several types of allergies that may contribute to the development or exacerbation of rosacea. These include:

  • Food Allergies Some people with rosacea may have an allergy or sensitivity to certain foods that can trigger symptoms. Common food allergens include dairy, gluten, and histamine-containing foods such as aged cheese, red wine, and cured meats.

  • Environmental Allergies Environmental allergens such as pollen, mold, and dust can also trigger rosacea symptoms in some people. Allergies to pets or dust mites can also contribute.

  • Skin Allergies Some people with rosacea may be sensitive to certain skincare products, which can trigger or exacerbate symptoms. Common irritants in skincare products include fragrances, preservatives, and certain types of acids (check out this blog on the most common allergens in skincare).

  • Contact Allergies Contact allergies occur when the skin comes into contact with a substance that causes an allergic reaction. This can include nickel, certain fabrics, or even certain plants.

Evidence for the Link between Allergies and Rosacea

There is not a huge body of evidence linking allergies with rosacea, but what is available does point to a link.


A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that patients with rosacea had a higher prevalence of allergies than those without the condition.

Another study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that patients with rosacea had higher levels of histamine in their skin than those without. Histamine is a chemical released by the immune system in response to allergens and is responsible for many of the symptoms of allergies, such as itching and swelling.


Tips to Manage Rosacea and Allergies

If you have rosacea and suspect that allergies may be contributing to your symptoms, the advice for managing your rosacea is much the same but with a real focus on triggers:


  1. Identify Triggers Keep a journal of your symptoms and identify any potential triggers, such as certain foods or skincare products. Avoiding these triggers can help to reduce symptoms

  2. Get Tested If you suspect that you have a food allergy, consult with a doctor or allergist to get tested if this option is available to you. Allergies can be a serious medical condition, so understanding this is important for your overall health.

  3. Use Gentle Skincare Products Avoid products that contain harsh chemicals, fragrances, or preservatives, which can irritate the skin and trigger symptoms.

  4. Use Sun Protection Sun exposure can trigger rosacea symptoms, so it’s important to use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and wear protective clothing and hats when spending time outdoors.

At a base level, it is easy for us to look at the common symptoms of both rosacea and allergies and see an overlap. From my own rosacea journey, I have experienced flushing and skin that is hot to the touch as a perceived response to allergens. It is only post rosacea diagnosis, that I am now (with more information available to me) able to reflect on how rosacea might have and is actually impacting me.

If you have rosacea and suspect that allergies may be contributing to your symptoms, you need to be taking steps to manage both conditions. As always, if you are not able to manage your conditions successfully, or need support you should seek advice from your GP or a dermatologist to help provide you with a personalised management plan.


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