Body & Fitness

Skin irritation: causes and treatments

It’s time to stop that scratch! We look at some solutions to common irritations.
Skin irritation - causes and treatments

There’s nothing worse than uncontrollable itching. Here are some possible causes of itchy skin and suggestions on how to combat it.

1. You’ve got: Fierce itching that can lead to red, weepy skin

It could be due to: Contact dermatitis. It’s triggered by: Rubber gloves, nickel jewellery, chemical in soaps or perfumes.

Treat it by: Identifying whether the itching is caused by an irritant or an allergen (patch tests can determine if you are actually allergic) and avoiding the substance that sets it off. Moisturise your skin regularly to maintain its protective barrier.

2. You’ve got: Intense, prickly itchiness causing red, scaly patches

It could be due to: Eczema. It’s triggered by: A variety of factors, including heat, stress, perfume or body lotions.

Treat it by: Keeping your skin well-moisturised – dry skin is more easily irritated. Avoid skin creams that contain parabens. Prescription ointments may be able to help as can special oatmeal baths – these contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce itching.

3. You’ve got: An itchy red-brown rash

It could be due to: Prescription medication such as penicillin and other antibiotics. It’s triggered by: Your body thinking the drugs are a foreign chemical and producing an allergic response to them.

Treat it by: Talking to your doctor about changing your medication. If it can’t be changed you may be able to go through a programme of desensitisation to try to get your body used to the drug.

4. You’ve got: A skin sensation, such as ants crawling all over you

It could be due to: Menopause. It’s triggered by: Changes in hormone levels. One theory is fluctuating hormone levels may affect nerve endings in the skin.

Treat it by: Avoiding anything that irritates your skin. Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated and help it stay moisturised. Avoid smoking, excess sun exposure, stress and lack of sleep. Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish such as salmon) may improve symptoms.

5. You’ve got: Itchy and hot painful skin with red or white welts

It could be due to: Hives. This is the result of your body producing too much histamine in response to an allergen. It’s triggered by: Some foods, such as tomatoes, strawberries and bananas or having an insect sting or allergy.

Treat it by: Taking antihistamines and avoiding what ever it is that sets it off. Don’t take nonsteroidal anti-in¬flammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen as these can produce an allergic reaction that could make things worse.

6. You’ve got: Constantly itchy red patches that can have white scales

It could be due to: Psoriasis. It’s triggered by: A genetic predisposition or an abnormal immune reaction caused by stress and hormonal changes

Treat it by: Bathing in warm water with a bath oil or tar solution which can soften psoriasis and lift the scale. Omega-3 fats can also help.

Related stories


Get The Australian Woman’s Weekly NZ home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.