What Causes Rashes? Treatments, Diagnoses, and Relief!

What-Causes-RashesGross! Disgusting! Uncomfortable!

These are just three of the words you may use to describe your regularly occurring rashes. If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from rashes on a regular basis, you’re probably familiar with the hundreds of over the counter treatments available for purchase which may help to sooth the itch, but often the real reason behind your rashes may be unclear.

Imagine how nice it would be to figure out the actual SOURCE of your rashes rather than treating them after the fact? How handy would that be?

Rashes are yucky to look at, eczema makes you feel less than confident about your appearance, and can make you feel like they are crawling out of their skin.

Most rashes are from one source: dermatitis. Dermatitis is a condition that occurs when your skin comes in contact with things that you are allergic to, or things that irritate your skin. Dermatitis causes your skin to become inflamed, which usually leads to a rash. Most rashes are itchy, they cause your skin to be dry, and they make your skin look red and irritated. While rashes are rarely contagious to people you come in contact with, it will certainly make people want to stay far, far away from you, or at least to not come in direct contact with your skin. What could be worse than being miserable and your friends and family steering clear of you?

The good news is, rashes typically go away over the course of a few weeks. For a rash sufferer though, these few weeks are absolutely miserable, and most would give anything to not suffer from rashes in the first place. Here we will go over some of the sources of itchy rashes, as well as how to get rid of rashes for good.

Common Skin Irritants
Some of the most common irritants that people who suffer from rashes should avoid come from items that include fragrance in them. Most commonly these are soaps, shampoos, makeup, and perfumes. They can also be hidden in your laundry detergents and the actual materials of your clothing. Irritants from these types of products are often fairly easy to avoid once you are aware of them. You can use detergents to wash your clothes that don’t have any of these chemicals or fragrances, and buy only clothes made of materials that are safe for your skin. Once you diagnose what you specifically are irritated by, you can avoid these things. There are soaps, shampoos and deodorants made pure, which do not include these irritants, making them safe for your skin since so many people are allergic to the same things.

Another source of irritants entirely stem from chemicals, metal, medicines, and plants. Again, once you are aware of what bothers you, you can usually stay away from it to avoid harsh rashes. The common rash causing plant, poison ivy, is one of the most apparent irritants- as most people are allergic to this plant and have a strong and almost immediate skin reaction when coming in contact with it. Some irritants are less obvious, which can cause you to really need to go on a search to see what the cause of your dermatitis is.

Types of Dermatitis
If you are interested in diagnosing your dermatitis to avoid future rashes, you need to be aware that there are two primary types of dermatitis. The first is called contact dermatitis, which happens when you actually touch an irritant with your skin. This could be a harsh chemical that alters your skins chemistry to cause a reaction.

The second kind of dermatitis is allergic dermatitis, which happens when you are in contact with something you are allergic to, causing an allergic reaction.

Diagnosis
Are you aware that you have dermatitis, but can’t, for the life of you, figure out what may be causing it? Don’t worry, you are not alone! While it seems simple to diagnose, it isn’t always that easy. Sometimes your reaction isn’t at the moment you come in contact with something, or it could be as subtle as your spouse switching the laundry detergent on you, without you knowing it!

If it isn’t easily diagnosable, you could get what is called a patch test, which is performed by your doctor. Your doctor will test you for a wide variety of allergens that are most commonly the cause of dermatitis. The doctor will put patches on your body that contain these different allergens, to see what your body reacts to. If you’ve worn the patches for two days and they are removed and there is an allergic reaction under one of the patches, your doctor will be able to simply tell you what allergen to avoid.

When to Seek Medical Treatment
If your rash is not enough to bother you in your everyday life, it may not be worth seeking medical attention. Especially if it is something you can diagnose and avoid on your own. If you know that wearing perfumes generally makes you break out in a rash, there is nothing to do but avoid them (sorry ladies!) But if your rashes are increasing in severity, or you can’t avoid whatever is causing them, it is time to talk to a professional.

Additionally, if your rashes are bad enough that they are interfering with your life, you also may have a more serious problem. Do you wake up regularly at night to itch or scratch your rashes? If your rash interrupts your sleep, it is significant enough to seek treatment. If the rashes are so bad that they are interfering with your appearance and you prefer to stay home than be seen, it is an issue you will want to talk over with your doctor.

If the rash comes with significant pain (other than just the annoyance of itchiness) you also should talk it over with your doctor. You may have an unknown medical condition that is actually causing your rash as a side effect.

Be careful if you have been suffering from a rash for more than 4 weeks. Often, people come down with a condition call neurodermatitis as a result of an ongoing rash. This is a terrible by product of rashes that makes your skin become thick because you are constantly itching your skin. There are more damaging problems from extended rashes, too. These can include permanent scarring as a result of all the scratching, as well as skin infections because bacteria can get into the little cuts on your skin from excessive scratching. Besides being uncomfortable, this can be dangerous or even deadly, so be sure to get to your doctor if the rash has been around for a few weeks and isn’t going away.

Treatments for Dermatitis
First, and most obviously, you need to try to figure out what it is that is bothering your skin, and stay far away from it! This can be drastic if you are allergic to something that is in your home. A good example we already mentioned is laundry detergent. If you are allergic to the dyes or fragrances in your detergent, every piece of clothing you put on, and even the sheets and blankets on your bed, will be contaminated. You will have to rid your home of these types of irritants and ban them from your household. While it may not impact other members of your household, it is worth the effort to allow even one member of your home end their suffering.

You can also try over the counter products which are designed to relieve the itchiness of a rash. There are oral products, as well as lotions that relieve the itch.

Although it seems obvious, you need to stop scratching the rash immediately. While it will seem like torture, it will help the rash go away more quickly on its own, especially combined with some of these other treatments. Scratching also causes the problems we previously discussed like infections, so it is imperative that you stop immediately.

You can also find relieve in taking a baking soda or oatmeal bath. You can purchase products in the skincare section of your local grocery store or pharmacy that will help with this. You can take baths in cool water, as cool as you can take. You can also use compresses to relieve the itching, preferably a washcloth or towel (cotton) with cold water on it.

If your rash area is small, covering the area with band aids can help. This keeps you from being able to scratch the problem skin, but will also allow the area to heal on its own.

Don’t wear any fabrics that will irritate your skin, instead, wear loose fitting, soft fabrics like cotton that are breathable and sit comfortably on your skin. Also, when washing your clothes, always use an unscented dye free laundry detergent.

When bathing, use mild soap, and don’t use products that have fragrances or dyes in them. Avoid cleaning your home while recovering from a rash. I know, more difficult said that done (although ladies, I give you full permission to tell your husbands you need to hire a cleaning lady ‘temporarily’ as a result of your treatment…) No, seriously, if you must clean, know that just about all cleaning products unfortunately include harsh chemicals like bleach. You should wear gloves and avoid skin contact with the cleansers. Most cleaning products are harsh on the skin whether you are allergic to them or not, so steer clear of cleaning products all together if at all possible.

Understanding How Irritants Impact You

It is important to understand the potential allergens in your home. If you are aware that you have a problem with irritants, stay away from these categories which amount for almost all reported rashes:

  1. Skin Care Products– stay focused on using all natural products with no dyes or fragrance. The most common products are lotions, makeup, shampoos, soaps, and perfumes. Also stay away from hair dye as it contains its own chemicals that many people take issue with. Often, temporary dye will not bother people who are irritated by the permanent dyes.
  2. Nickel– While often overlooked, nickel is a serious allergy that impacts many people, and it is in many items you may not be considering. These include belt buckles, buttons, zippers, and all kinds of jewelry.
  3. Rubber– if you become irritated when wearing rubber gloves for cleaning, rubber may be an irritant for you. You can instead wear cloth or synthetic gloves. Also be careful of undergarments and clothing that feature rubber, as well as contraceptive products that contain rubber.
  4. Plants– while the most common are poison ivy and its relatives, poison oak and sumac, there are dozens of plants that may react with your skin differently, so be careful to analyze any plants you come in contact regularly.
  5. Cleaning products– just about all cleaning products contain harsh chemicals, so be sure to wear gloves when cleaning and clean in a well-ventilated area.

In conclusion, irritants and rashes ARE avoidable if you properly educate yourself on these categories and treatment. If you are tired of your disgusting and debilitating rashes that make you feel like a homebody instead of a rock star, if you have made attempts to diagnose your rashes on your own and are coming up empty, or if your rashes are ongoing and interrupting your life, please seek medical treatment as soon as possible to relieve your suffering.

Have you tried any of these treatments? What were your results? How do you feel about it? Share your thoughts with us!

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