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Can an Allergic Reaction Look Like Bites?

Can an Allergic Reaction Look Like Bites?
Some types of itchy allergic reactions can look like bites.

An allergic reaction can take on various forms in the body, depending on the type of allergen and your immune system. Some types of allergic reactions can translate to rashes on the body, which can range from dry scales to raised bumps. Such bumps can appear to look like insect bites, but the difference lies in the fact that other symptoms will accompany the bumps if they are attributed to an allergic reaction. Persistent allergic reactions should be diagnosed and treated by a medical doctor, preferably an allergist or immunologist.


Hives, also called urticaria, are red, raised bumps that often occur in clusters, similar to insect bites. Hives can range in size, which can make them confusing to self-diagnose. Large hives are more noticeably linked to an allergic reaction; on the other hand, small hives can have the appearance of bites. Allergic contact dermatitis also can have the appearance of insect bites but has other skin symptoms as well, such as dryness, scales and flakes. Contact dermatitis is one of the many types of eczema, which according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, is tied to allergies in 20 percent of all patients with the skin condition.


Hives are attributed to allergic reactions linked to medications and foods, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Medications also can cause allergic contact dermatitis, but the rash doesn't always look like bites. Other causes of bite-like rashes associated with contact dermatitis include cosmetics, poison ivy and metals such as mercury and nickel.


A doctor might prescribe an oral antihistamine to help relieve the itch associated with hives and allergic contact dermatitis. The bumps can become infected if you persistently scratch them. In such cases, you may need an antibiotic. Topical ointments, such as corticosteroids, often are used to help reduce inflammation associated with allergic contact dermatitis. Your physician also might recommend lifestyle changes, such as cool baths and sweat prevention, to help prevent the allergic rashes from worsening.


The most effective way to prevent allergic reactions is to avoid the triggers of the rashes. This may not be as easy as it sounds, especially if you are unable to identify the triggers on your own. An allergist or immunologist can administer an allergy test to help identify the causes of your rashes. Immunology, or allergy shots, may be recommended for persistent rashes. Such shots contain a small amount of the allergen to help you build immunity to it over time. Ironically, you may experience a rash that looks like bites after having the shots until your body gets used to them.

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