Did you know that the armpits are home to about 20 to 30 disease- and infection-fighting lymph nodes? These tiny, bean-shaped sacs, called the axillary lymph nodes, contain immune cells. They help the body remove diseased cells, foreign materials, and even harmful microorganisms.
Moreover, the armpits help the body stay cool by producing sweat. That’s because it has high concentrations of sweat glands called apocrine and eccrine.
Unfortunately, the armpits’ location makes them prone to irritation, particularly itchy rashes.
Don’t worry, though, as we’re here to tell you how to treat armpit rashes. Read on to learn what you can do to ease that itch, which can sometimes be unbearable.
Identify the Root Cause
You may not see them, but millions of microbes live in and on the skin, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Many of these microorganisms are beneficial, creating a protective barrier on the skin. However, some of these are also pathogens, which means they can cause disease.
A perfect example is Candida albicans, a yeast (fungus) that can cause candidiasis. Candidiasis is a fungal infection that often occurs on moist areas of the skin, such as the armpits. It can result in red rashes, itchiness, swelling, and even scaling.
Another example is staphylococcus aureus, which can cause folliculitis. Folliculitis is an infection affecting the hair follicle, causing small rash-like pimples. Since the armpits have hair and follicles, then the skin condition can also occur there.
On top of those microbes are allergens or irritants, which can cause dermatitis. Atopic, contact, and seborrheic dermatitis are some that can cause armpit rash.
Now, keep in mind that bacteria, fungi, and allergenic conditions require different treatments. As such, using an anti-allergy, such as a steroid-based cream, can worsen a fungal infection. The same can happen if you use an antibacterial product on an allergy, or at the very least, it won’t do anything.
That’s why it’s imperative to determine what’s causing your armpit rash before you try to treat it. The best way to do this is to seek the help of a dermatologist.
Antifungals for Armpit Candidiasis
For armpit candidiasis, an antifungal cream, such as clotrimazole or miconazole, can help. These are over-the-counter (OTC) products that can kill Candida fungi. As a result, they help ease armpit rashes and reduce the spread of Candida infections.
If OTC creams don’t work, your doctor may prescribe a more potent antifungal. These include ketoconazole or nystatin, available in cream form as well.
Antibiotics for Armpit Folliculitis
If you have folliculitis, your doctor will likely prescribe a topical antibiotic. You can get them in creams, lotions, or gels, so long as you have a valid prescription.
Please remember that you need to use antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor. That’s because improper antimicrobial use can result in antibiotic-resistant infections. Such infections, in turn, afflict 2.8 million people in the US each year.
Hydrocortisone Cream for Allergic Reactions
Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid usually available as a topical cream. It can treat mild to moderate skin inflammation, such as armpit rash caused by dermatitis. If you only have mild rashes, you can apply OTC hydrocortisone.
If you have severe rashes that cause an unbearable itch, you may need a prescription dose. For this, you need to see a doctor, such as a dermatologist.
Antihistamines for Skin Allergies or Irritation
Antihistamines are medications that help relieve the symptoms of allergies, including dermatitis. In the case of an armpit rash, these medicines can help ease itching. If you have inflamed rashes, these drugs can also reduce the swelling.
Fexofenadine (Allegra) or loratadine (Claritin) are both non-drowse antihistamines. Consider taking these OTC meds during the day if you need to stay alert. Then, at night, you can take diphenhydramine (Benadryl), which has a sedating effect.
Home Remedy for Armpit Rashes
You can apply a cold compress onto your armpit rashes using ice cubes wrapped in a clean towel. It can help ease the itchiness and also some swelling.
Another trick is to slide a slice of lemon across the armpit skin with rashes. It may sting a bit, but the fruit’s critic acid can kill underarm bacteria.
Baby powder and body powder for men and women can also help relieve armpit rash itchiness. To top it off, they often work on other areas with irritated skin, too, such as the neck, chest, and back.
When choosing a powder, though, you might want to go for one without talcum (AKA talc). That’s because some studies on its safety link it to certain types of cancer. While others haven’t found any association, it might be best to avoid it altogether.
Armpit Rash Prevention
Non-allergy armpit rash is preventable with good hygiene, especially regular showers or baths. You don’t even have to use antibacterial or antifungal soaps unless your doctor tells you to. Just make sure to use clean towels all the time, or if possible, air-dry yourself.
Another way to prevent rashes or itchy armpit woes is to avoid using tight clothing. The same goes for synthetic fabrics. These types of clothes can cause underarm issues as they restrict sweat.
Rather than skin-hugging clothes, opt for loose, breathable cottonwear. These allow sweat to escape your armpits and are also gentler on the skin.
Lifestyle changes, such as exercising more and cutting back on alcohol, can also help. That’s because both can help you reach or maintain optimal weight.
By contrast, having excess fats in the arms can make your armpits more prone to friction. That constant rubbing can then irritate the skin and make it develop rashes.
Moreover, excessive alcohol intake can result in many skin conditions. One of these is seborrheic dermatitis, which, as cited above, can cause armpit rashes.
Follow These Steps on How to Treat Armpit Rashes Today
There you have it, everything you need to know about how to treat armpit rashes. The most important thing is to determine first what’s behind those itchy bumps. From there, you can then use the appropriate method to relieve and even prevent them from coming back.
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