We’ve probably all had a skin irritation at some point in our lives. It might be a reaction to something we have touched or it could be due to an underlying skin problem, or even a sign of a skin infection.
How our skin reacts to different factors differs from person to person. You might have an obvious reaction, causing itchy, red skin or a rash. You may even have other symptoms, such as a fever.
There are many reasons why your skin can become irritated. It could be because you have dry skin, or your skin has come into contact with an allergen or irritant, or you develop a rash because of heat or infection. You may just have skin that is sensitive and prone to reacting to things like cosmetics.
CONDITIONS LINKED TO IRRITATED SKIN
Irritated skin can be the result of a general cause like having dry skin, which is more common as we get older, or a specific trigger such as being pregnant. For others it may be due to a medical condition, such as atopic eczema, contact dermatitis or psoriasis. Irritated, rashy skin can also develop in response to an infection, such as athlete’s foot or chickenpox.
Insect bites and stings
Irritated Skin triggers and factors
There are many different triggers that can irritate the skin, from everyday items in your home to the environment, both inside and outside.
Allergens and irritants
Weather and temperature
How to manage irritated skin
It is important to find out what’s making your skin irritated so you can not only avoid this trigger, but also ensure you find the right treatment. There are many different treatments available that can help relieve irritated skin depending on what’s causing it and how bad it is.
If your irritated skin is caused due to dry skin, eczema, contact dermatitis or psoriasis, then using a moisturiser called an emollient can help. In fact, if your skin is itchy, emollients are recommended as your first-choice treatment, and can also be used to ease pregnancy itch (*).
Emollients can come in many forms including creams, lotions, ointments or sprays. Emollients should be applied to the skin regularly, sometimes even multiple times a day. The area of coverage and frequency will change depending on your symptoms and condition, the severity and which product you are using. Always refer to the label for proper use. Applying emollients regularly can help irritated skin by:
- Adding and trapping moisture in the skin
- Forming a protective barrier over the skin to keep irritants and allergens out
- Helping flare-ups of conditions, such as eczema.
As regular soaps and cleansers can further irritate the skin and cause dryness, it’s also important to wash with an emollient or soap substitute. These don’t lather up like regular soap, but still do the job of getting you clean. You can also add emollients to your bath.
Some emollients contain extra ingredients that specifically target and control itchiness. These ingredients include oatmeal, crotamiton and lauromacrogols, which have a local anaesthetic action.
(*) With E45 Cream no effects during pregnancy are anticipated, since systemic exposure to white soft paraffin, liquid paraffin and lanolin is negligible. As with all medicines, this product should be used with caution during pregnancy. With E45 Itch Relief Cream there are no specific restrictions concerning its use during pregnancy, but it is not to be used on the breasts immediately prior to breast feeding during lactation.
Mild steroids creams and ointments can be bought from your pharmacy to help relieve contact dermatitis, flare-ups of mild-to-moderate eczema and insect bites or stings. Always check the label for how to use the product correctly and safely; always check who can use the product as many over the counter steroids having limitations regarding age and pregnancy.
Note that majority of topical steroids should be applied differently to emollients:
- Apply very thinly and to just a small area
- Use once or twice a day for 7-14 days
- Apply the product sparingly to only the affected areas
Antihistamines can be used to help relieve severe itch in atopic eczema, contact dermatitis and pregnancy itch. Ask your pharmacist or doctor which antihistamine is best for you.
Antifungal creams and ointments are available to treat athlete’s foot, ringworm and Candidal infections. Some also contain a mild steroid to help reduce any inflammation. Ask to speak with your pharmacist or doctor to determine which treatment and/or product is best for you.
Speak to your healthcare professional if:
- In addition to a rash, you feel unwell
- You don’t know what has caused the rash
- Your rash doesn’t go away quickly
- Your rash doesn’t fade when you press a glass gently against it
- Your irritated skin is affecting your daily life
- You are worried about other symptoms
- Irritation persists for more than 2 weeks, or keeps returning
- If the rash comes with a new swelling
- It’s all over your body.
Self-care for irritated skin
Self-care can include using emollients regularly, avoiding triggers and making changes to your everyday routine.