Spring has officially sprung! And we all know what that means: warmer days, thriving flower beds, and horrible allergies. Stuffy noses and watery eyes are the hallmarks of allergy season, but did you know that your skin is affected as well? These three itchy skin ailments are the most common ones we see in the spring.
You’ve spent the day cleaning and refreshing your garden after the long winter months, and when you wake up the next day, your hands are covered in itchy, oozy blisters. Looks like you’ve got contact dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis is when something touches your skin and causes a red, itchy rash. It’s not a very specific definition, because contact dermatitis can be caused by just about anything. After digging in your garden all day, you’ve probably gotten allergic contact dermatitis from poison ivy, oak, or sumac. All three of those plants have urushiol oil in them, which is what causes the reaction.
Contact dermatitis isn’t contagious and doesn’t spread. It may seem like it does, as the itchy patch might get bigger over the first few days, but that’s from a delayed reaction, not the spread of the oil. Even when the blisters begin to weep, it’s not contagious (although we do recommend keeping the area clean for hygienic reasons.)
Urushiol reactions are annoying and a little bit gross, but far from serious. Most cases can be helped with topical corticosteroids, and you can relieve that pesky itch with calamine lotion, colloidal oatmeal, or baking soda.
Believe it or not, hay fever doesn't only cause sneezing and sniffling: it can also cause hives. These itchy patches of swollen, red welts tend to turn white when you press them, and often flare up suddenly only to disappear within a day. Hives are triggered by exposure to allergens, so they often appear in conjunction with hay fever.
Even if you don’t have hives, hay fever can cause generalized itchiness. The more you scratch, the more irritated your skin becomes, resulting in a self-induced rash. As hard as it may be, refraining from scratching is necessary in order to keep your skin from getting any worse.
For hives and hayfever itchiness, we recommend over-the-counter medicines with diphenhydramine (such as Benadryl) to cut the irritation.
As it gets warmer and you spend more time in the sun, heat rash can cause your skin to turn bumpy and itchy as well. Caused by blocked pores trapping perspiration under your skin, these blisters and bumps are most common in skin folds and wherever clothing causes friction. Thankfully, it’s easy to cure: clean and cool the skin, and avoid heat exposure. It usually clears on its own in just a couple of days.
For all of these itchy springtime afflictions, if the rash consumes more than 1/4th of your body, prevents you from being able to sleep, or is accompanied by other signs of allergic reaction such as fever, swollen eyes, and trouble breathing, go to the doctor as soon as you can.