Summer also seems to bring out all sorts of itchy & irritated skin! When your skin is inflamed or has rashes after a day at the pool or following a hike, what is that rash & how can you treat it?
Commonly, these kinds of skin problems are the result of contact dermatitis- either irritant contact dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis. Both of these are due to something touching your skin and causing a reaction, but they are different types of reactions by the skin. Let’s look at the difference between these and what you can do!
Irritant Contact Dermatitis
This is the most common type of contact dermatitis. It is typically caused when an irritant has been in contact with your skin repeatedly or for a prolonged amount of time. Not caused by an allergen, most substances can cause irritant contact dermatitis with sufficient exposure, even water!
The most common summer irritant is chlorine.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
This type is due to an allergic response against a substance that the body sees as toxic, including common allergens such as bug venom as well as allergens specific to you, such as certain beauty product ingredients. Sometimes the allergic response includes a trigger such as UV exposure or sweating (i.e. lime juice may not seem to affect your skin until it is combined with hot, summer weather).
Common summer allergens include poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and spider & bug bites.
Identifying the Rash
Both of these types of contact dermatitis look very similar. Irritant Contact Dermatitis often looks like dry, chapped skin that may develop into a red, scaly itchy patch with continued exposure to the irritant. Severe reactions may cause blisters or sores. Allergic Contact Dermatitis usually starts off as a rash, very itchy skin or hives that may turn into fluid-filled, oozing blisters and/or may sting or burn.
If whatever is causing the reaction is known, try to avoid whatever that is. If it’s unknown, try to ID it by thinking about any new products you started using or any new places you’ve been in the past day or so. Did you wear a new necklace made of an unknown metal? Or a new skin care product? Try removing the jewelry or stopping use of the product to see if the rash clears. If it’s an irritant like chlorine, try rinsing off your skin immediately after getting out of the pool & wash your skin thoroughly when you take your shower or bath.
First steps (after identifying the cause, if possible) include gently cleansing the area with a cleanser made for sensitive skin or eczema (as these are less irritating), applying cool, moist compresses to any blisters, and keeping the area moisturized. Moisturizer is important to help rebuild & support the skin’s natural protective barrier. Corticosteroid creams and OTC antihistamine oral medication can also help reduce inflammation & ease symptoms such as redness, swelling and itching.
For More Information:
American Academy of Dermatology: Contact Dermatitis
Mayo Clinic: Contact Dermatitis