All over me like a rash
Sometimes rashes are, indeed, all over you, but often they only affect one part of your skin. With these tips you can help separate the majority, which are nothing to worry about, from those which need more than time and a bit of soothing cream. If simple measures don’t help, though, do get your GP to check it out.
Hello, old friend
Lots of rashes come and go over the years. They include:
- Contact dermatitis. Dermatitis just means inflammation of the skin. Contact dermatitis is a red, sore, bumpy rash, sometimes with blisters, due to allergy to something you’ve touched (like nickel in a belt or jewellery, latex, perfume or cosmetics). Even a tiny brief contact can bring out the rash, usually on your hands or face. You may need a steroid cream to reduce inflammation, and you’ll need to try to avoid whatever you’re allergic to.
- Irritant dermatitis causes dry, scaly, red sore skin, usually on your hands. Harsh chemicals or detergents are often to blame. Use lots of unscented moisturiser and avoid coming into contact with detergents and cleaning products, as well as spending too much time with your hands in water. Rubber gloves (unless you’re allergic to rubber!) should help – or it could be a great excuse to get out of the washing up!
- Eczema tends to cause dry, itchy red patches which come and go. Simple unscented moisturisers are often enough, but you need to apply them several times a day for best effect. Avoiding highly perfumed products (and sticking to hypo-allergenic products, including make-up) will reduce the risk of it coming back.
Are you hot under the collar?
- Heat rash, or prickly heat, happens when you’re hot and sweat can’t escape, so it’s common on hot holidays or in summer. It usually causes clusters of small, red bumps that produce a pricking or stinging sensation. Keeping cool and wearing loose clothes in natural fibres that let your skin breathe will often be all you need.
- Intertrigo gives rise to sore red patches which may have a ‘cheesy’ smell, usually under your breasts or in your groin. It’s caused by a yeast infection (similar to athlete’s foot). Treat it with antifungal cream (available from your chemist) and avoid getting too warm or sweaty. If it’s a recurrent problem, see your GP about getting tested for diabetes.
Do you feel unwell in yourself?
Rashes caused by infection can often make you feel unwell. This ranges from the life-threatening rash related to meningitis (usually red, blotchy and doesn’t fade when you press a glass against it); through cellulitis (infection spreading under the skin, causing a red painful area of skin on one part of your body) to shingles (a band of pain followed by blisters, strictly on one side of your body). All make you feel generally unwell. Do see your doctor (very urgently if there’s any chance of meningitis).
Psoriasis – more than just skin deep
The inflamed red patches and thick, silvery scales of psoriasis cause misery to over 1.5 million people in the UK. Psoriasis isn’t catching, but it can’t be cured either.
Psoriasis can usually be controlled, but all too many people give up when one or two treatments haven’t done the trick, and suffer in silence. That means they may not know about some of the newer treatments available from the GP, which are less messy, more convenient and often more effective than older ones. For instance, two treatments (a topical steroid and another cream) are now available together as a single cream, Dovobet® gel, which can be applied to both body and scalp just once a day.
Living with a chronic skin condition like psoriasis can have a major impact on all aspects of your life.