Determining what's causing your dermatitis is important in treating it, but if you can't think of anything but the itching at the moment, here are some home remedies you can follow for fast relief:
Cool the itch and swelling. Cool compresses will help. Use a folded handkerchief or a piece of bed linen folded several layers thick. Dip the clean cloth into cool water or Burow's solution (available over-the-counter at your pharmacy), and place it on the rash for 10 to 15 minutes every hour. Wet compresses are also appropriate when weeping, oozing blisters are present; ironically, you'll actually dry up the rash by repeatedly wetting it (just as frequent wetting dries out healthy skin if moisturizer isn't applied).
Whole-milk compresses are effective, too, since the protein in dairy products helps relieve itching.
Apply calamine lotion. This old standby can help relieve the itch. Apply it thinly, so the pores aren't sealed, two to three times a day. The downside to calamine lotion is that it leaves your skin the color of bubble gum. At least one manufacturer, however, has come out with a version of this itch buster that will leave you less "in the pink." Check your local pharmacy.
Use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. This all-purpose salve is a mainstay in any dermatologist's practice and is also available over the counter (OTC) in 0.5 and 1 percent strengths. It can ease the itch and inflammation of dermatitis (although it won't help, and it can even suppress, the body's ability to fight a bacterial or fungal infection, which may develop if excessive scratching has torn the skin). Topical hydrocortisone may be a better treatment choice for allergic dermatitis than for irritant dermatitis, however. (The distinction between these two types of dermatitis is explained shortly.)
Stay away from products that end in "caine." If a skin product's generic name ends with the letters "caine" (such as benzocaine), the medicine is derived from an anesthetic, and anesthetics often cause or aggravate allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Treating a bad sunburn with one of these products, for example, could produce an itchy allergic rash to go along with the painful burn.
Don't try topical antihistamines. These products can cause allergic reactions, in the form of severe rashes, when rubbed on the skin.
Take an oral antihistamine instead. Try an OTC antihistamine that you take by mouth, such as Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton, to help relieve itching. Such products generally cause drowsiness, but that side effect may actually be helpful at night when itching is most severe. If you take an antihistamine during the day and it makes you drowsy, avoid driving or operating heavy machinery.
Don't scratch. Doing so could break the skin and cause a secondary infection. If you simply can't resist the urge, rub the itch with your fingertips instead of scratching with your nails. If a child is affected, trim his or her fingernails short and, if necessary, have the child wear mittens, at least at night, to prevent harmful scratching.
Take a soothing bath. Adding oatmeal or baking soda to bathwater will make it more soothing, although it won't cure your rash. Buy an OTC colloidal oatmeal bath treatment (the oatmeal is ground up so it dissolves better) or add a cup of baking soda to warm, not hot, bathwater.
There are three basic types of dermatitis. Next, we'll look at the specific problem of allergic contact dermatitis and some home remedies to treat it.
For more information about dermatitis and how to combat it, try the following links:
- To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
- Many skin problems stem from allergies. To learn more about allergies, you should check out How Allergies Work.
- To learn how to minimize your allergic reactions, check out Home Remedies for Allergies.
- If your skin feels itchy and scratchy, it could be from dry skin. To releive this problem, read our Home Remedies for Dry Skin.
- Or if the problem is with your scalp, check out Home Remedies for Dry Hair.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.