We’re in the dog days of August and summer continues to hold on. What better way is there to relax than in your nice, cool pool? Unless you’re allergic to it, of course.
I had a patient this summer who developed an itchy rash all over. He thought it might be due to his pool, but insisted that he kept it immaculately clean. Ironically, that might have been the trouble.
Some people are allergic to the shocking agent used for pools and hot tubs. Potassium peroxymonosulfate or PPMS is an oxidizing agent used to keep pools clean. A study showed that skin allergies to this chemical aren’t uncommon and that it tends to afflict men more than women.
As with my patient, treating the allergic reaction with topical steroids and changing the pool’s shocking agent can help. At least he wasn’t allergic to water.
Have you ever had a sunburn? First it hurts. Then it itches. And itches. And itches.
Why is that?
Sunburn is caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation damage to your skin. Too much UV damages your skin cell’s DNA, and your immune system responds by killing off the bad cells. Because UV radiation doesn’t penetrate (unlike X-rays for example), it damages only the surface layer of your skin. This outermost layer happens to be loaded with special nerve fibers called C-fibers which are responsible for itch.
Itch is a mechanism to protect us against insects and other minor injuries that aren’t significant enough to register as pain. It’s our skin’s way of saying; “Hey, there’s a bug on us, get it off!” Because the damage from sunburns happens in this same surface layer, these C-fiber nerves fire furiously until the skin is healed.
Here’s how to soothe sunburn itch:
Try a soothing lotion such as Eucerin Calming Lotion. You can even keep it in the refrigerator for a few hours before applying it for cool, soothing relief.
Lukewarm baths with colloidal oatmeal can also sooth and heal sunburned skin.
Many people also like aloe for its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.
Avoid topical numbing sprays with “cane” in them. Allergies to these topical anesthetics is common, and the last thing you need is to add a raging allergic dermatitis to an already itchy sunburn — it’s an itch of Biblical proportion.
Cold, dry air and indoor heating make winter the season for dry skin. It’s more important now than any other time of year to protect your skin from dryness. The first way to do this is to limit the damage you do to your skin everyday. Some things, like the weather, you cannot control. But, some of the things you do everyday to your skin might be making already dry skin much worse. One area where you can make a big difference is in the shower. Continue reading “Shampoo Your Hair, Not Your Body”
A study by Dr. Yosipovitch at Wake Forest University used functional MRIs to examine the effects on the brain of scratching an itch. Scratching decreased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and in the posterior cingulate cortex. These areas are associated with pain aversion and memory. According to the study, an increase in scratching led to a decrease of activity in these areas of the brain.
“It’s possible that scratching may suppress the emotional components of itch and bring about relief,” Yosipovitch said.
Well, plenty of my patients must be emotionally suppressed these days — with winter itch in full effect, plenty of them are scratching.