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Treating Skin Rashes (Skin Rashes)
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Treating Skin Rashes

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A skin rash is any area of the skin that has changed colour, texture, or is inflamed. The area is often itchy, and/or warm. Its causes vary widely ranging from irritation, allergic and other reactions to foods, chemicals, animals, or plants, or other environmental factors. Rashes are a sign that the immune system is rejecting or reacting to a pathogen, whether it is a virus, bacteria, or an allergic reaction.

Skin rashes are common because the skin plays an important role in the immune system. The skin is the first layer of defence against various antigens like viruses or proteins which the body reacts to. The skin is the level where many antigens and lymphocytes square off. When the lymphocytes become active from exposure to these antigens, they produce chemicals that cause inflammation. Allergies to various substances and viral infections also frequently produce rashes as they activate our immune system.

Rashes can be general or localized, and its characteristics and appearance will also vary depend on the cause, and the type of rash. Below are some common rashes:

Eczema: Also known as atopic dermatitis, this chronic rash is commonly seen in children. The affected skin will often be dry, chapped, and itchy. It is often found in the folds of the elbows or the back of the knees, and can become aggravated. For more information about eczema, visit www.eczemaguide.ca.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis: When your skin comes into contact with an allergen, it will react by causing a rash. Common allergens include nickel, hair dye, or latex rubber. Certain plants such as poison ivy can also cause a similar rash.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis: When your skin comes into contact with irritants, often over prolonged periods, it can cause your skin to rash. Common irritants include soap, detergents, or chemicals like formaldehyde. The resulting rash is often red, swollen, and itchy.

Do not scratch at rashes if you develop one. This is very important as the rash will take longer to heal if you aggravate it, and there is an increased chance that the cut skin will develop into an infection or a scar. When dealing with rashes, the first thing to do is to determine the cause of the rash. Rashes are a result of the body’s defence system becoming activated, so it’s important to recognize that your body has likely come into contact with something that it deems to be harmful. Visit your doctor to determine the cause, and seek effective treatment.

Proper treatment will depend on what the cause of the rash is. The best treatment for rashes is prevention, so the focus will be on identifying the source of the rash. If the rash is caused by an allergy, treatment will likely start with patch testing to identify the allergy, and treatment will simply involve avoiding the allergen. If your rash is due to coming into contact with known irritants like poison ivy, cool showers and calamine lotion can help to reduce the rash. Antihistamines can also be prescribed which reduce redness and itching.

It's important to try to find out what's causing the rash because the best way to prevent it is to avoid the problem food, substance, medicine or insect. If a poison plant is your problem, learn what it looks like and avoid it. It may also help to wear long sleeves and pants when you go camping or hiking. If insect bites are causing your rash, then consider applying insect repellant before going outside. For eczema, stay away from harsh soaps that may dry out your skin, and make an effort to moisturize with creams or lotions. For eczema, moisturizers can help to keep the skin hydrated and healthy. Mild soaps should be used as regular soaps can be irritating to the skin, and hot showers and long baths should be avoided as it dries out the skin even more. In the case of eczema, if you have not done so already, visit a dermatologist, as the rashes will be chronic and patterned.

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