Do you know what the largest organ of your body is? It’s actually the skin, the outer covering of our body that acts as your first line of defense against pathogens and acts as safeguard for all of our organs underneath.
Skin inflammation is your skin’s way of reacting to harmful stimuli such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants. Inflammation is actually helpful because it helps get rid of these harmful stimuli and initiates the skin tissue’s healing process. Simply put, without inflammation, your skin will not heal.
However, inflammation that goes unchecked runs the risk of playing host to diseases and even infection.
Dermatitis is the the term generally used to describe any kind of skin inflammation, although it might be termed as eczema or rashes. While not contagious and generally harmless, dermatitis can cause discomfort and get in the way of your daily activities. You may have dermatitis if you have the following:
• Rashes (Learn how to get rid of rashes)
• Blisters (small pockets of liquid under your skin)
• Swelling (Tips on how to get rid of swelling)
• Skin lesions
• Crusty skin
One in five people experience dermatitis at least once in their lifetime. It has a variety of causes, although a combination of genetics, skin type, skin sensiitvity, a weaker immune system and your environment can also make you more culpable. High levels of physical or mental stress may also trigger or aggravate dermatitis. Some other causes include:
- Allergen contact (allergies)
- Dry skin
- Immune system dysfunction
- Irritant contact
- Oily hair
- Oily skin
- Poor circulation (legs)
- Tissue fluid accumulation
- Burns and sunburn (For sunburn treatments, see how to relieve sun burn)
The type of dermatitis is usually tied to what caused the inflammation, and the most common types include:
Contact dermatitis. This is typically caused by repeated and prolonged irritants from an outside source with allergy-producing substances such as the sap of poison ivy or poison oak (Learn how to get rid of poison oak). Other irritants include laundry soaps, skin soaps, detergents and cleaning products. It may also be caused by allergens such as rubber, nickel, jewelry, dyes, perfume, solvents, cosmetics or neomycin, an ingredient found in most topical antibiotic creams.
Atopic dermatitis. A chronic and itchy skin irritation that often runs with allergies and in families who suffer from asthma or hay fever (allergic rhinitis). It is more common in infants and children and noticeably lessens in adulthood, perhaps due to a lessened contact to irritants. There is no exact cause to atopic dermatitis because it’s usually related to skin sensitivity, which you may be born with, although there are some preventive measures available for people with this chronic condition.
Seborrheic dermatitis. A condition commonly experienced by people with oily skin and hair, seborrheic dermatitis typically causes dandruff, a red rash and yellowish, somewhat oily scales usually found on your scalp. This condition may also be caused by physical stress, travel and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. In infants, it’s also known as cradle cap.
Stasis dermatitis. Sometimes fluid accumulates in the tissues underneath your skin, typically in the lower leg. This accumulation gets in the way of your blood nourishing your skin and places an extra pressure from beneath.
Scales? Rashes? Bumps? All sound unsightly and uncomfortable, true, but there are a number of ways for you to get rid of skin inflammation
Hydrocortisone. Depending on the cause of your dermatitis, creams containing hydrocortisone or other steroidal creams may be prescribed to you to help relieve redness and itching. You may have to use this for 2-4 weeks. However, long-term use is not recommended since hydrocortisone also causes skin thinning, which may actually make it even more irritable. Best consult a doctor for the prescribed dosage and application.
Bathe less. Bathe less often while you have skin inflammation. Take shower baths in lukewarm water and use milder soap and shampoo, or whatever your doctor prescribes is best for your type of dermatitis.
Clothing. It’s best to wear light, cool clothing. Cotton is a good option as it allows your skin to breathe. Avoid wearing wool and other heavy fabrics in the meantime.
Scratching. Don’t do it. Scratching may provide temporary relief but it will only make your condition worse and make your skin more irritated.
Gloves. Protect yourself from irritants that cause dermatitis. Wear gloves when doing household chores that involve detergents and other forms of cleaning products.
Pimecrolimus cream. An anti-inflammatory cream that does not contain topical steroids. It’s observed to be very effective for atopic dermatitis.
Antihistamine. This is a medication that is used to block the effects of histamine, a chemical that is released because of allergic reaction. Antihistamines used as a response for dermatitis is noted to reduce irritation and are useful during the nighttime to help you sleep easier.
Antibiotics. If your dermatitis is a complication or a side effect to another infection, your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics such as flucloxacillin or erythromycin.
Alternative remedies. These herbal remedies may also provide relief if applied directly to the affected skin area:
- Burdock root
- Calendula ointment
- Chamomile ointment
- Evening primrose oil
Apply these herbal therapies topically on contact dermatitis:
Others. For severe cases of dermatitis, systemic steroids, azathioprine and phototherapy may be prescribed (For more dermatitis treatments, read how to get rid of dermatitis).
Dermatitis can be caused by very unavoidable factors, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t prevent it from happening to you. Here are some tips on preventing dermatitis:
Moisturize. Use moisturizers and emollients, especially after baths or coming in from any activity or environment that may leave your skin dry. Moisturizers and emollients help keep your skin moist and soft, which helps prevent dryness, scaling and irritation. Make sure you use non-perfumed ones, or you can opt to ask your dermatologist to prescribe the best one for your skin. When moisturizing, pay special attention to your back, legs, arms, and the sides of your body.
Know your allergies. Susceptibility to certain allergens usually runs in the family, so know your family’s allergen history. Once you’ve identified these allergens, keep away or find away to protect yourself from them.
Hydrate. Drinking plenty of water daily keeps your skin moisturized and from becoming dry. Dry skin can lead to irritation and inflammation. (Read how to reduce allergens in your home)
Eat healthy. Eating food and stocking up on vitamins A, C and E will make your skin stronger and healthier, which will make it easier to protect against inflammation or recovering from it.
Product use. Use gentle and mild products for bathing or laundering clothes, or in any product that you constantly and regularly expose your skin to.
Remember, your skin is your frontline defense against germs and pathogens, so it’s important that we take all measures to protect it and pay attention when it sends messages to us like skin inflammation. For more information regarding this article, read how to get rid of inflammation.
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