How do you treat chafing?

We all might have experienced that the skin is irritated for no particular reason and may get worse after sports or sweating. This may be signs of chafing. Chafing itself can cause discomfort and makes a person have difficulty performing daily tasks as usual. In this DoctorOnCall’s article, we will be learning about chafing and how you can treat it.

Chafing of the skin refers to the red sore skin that has been irritated by something that is continuously rubbing against it. In general, chafed skin resembles a red rash and typically caused by intense rubbing between body parts or another surface such as clothing. Chafing is common after walking or running. Apart from this, armpit chafing may occur from friction between the skin and clothing. There is also a term known as nipple chafing which is common in runners. Basically, chafing can occur in the flexures such as behind the ears, in the fold of the neck, under the arm, under the protruding abdomen, in the groin, between the buttocks, in the finger webs or in the toe spaces.

Everyone of all ages can be affected by chafing. Even so, there are certainly groups of people that have higher risk for developing this skin condition such as those who are overweight or obese and have well-developed muscles such as long-distance athletes. Chafing may also be easier to be developed by those living in hot and humid conditions or those with certain diseases such as diabetes. Those who smoke or drink excessive alcohol may also be at risk for chafing and other health problems related to the bad habits.

You may wonder, how does chafing skin occur? Chafing skin is more than just the skin rubbing against surfaces. When heat is present and friction occurs, it produces irritation to the skin and eventually causes skin inflammation. This leads to build up of moisture to the area and such conditions favour the growth of microorganisms that can cause infection such as from bacteria. Ironically, these microorganisms are actually considered normal to live on human’s skin. However, when the moisture increases and presence of the warm moist environment, these microorganisms tend to overgrow and cause symptoms. This is why when a person sweats or wears certain clothing that produces friction to the skin, the chafing skin gets worse.

Since chafing skin can be quite bothersome, you may want to know what you can do to help improve the condition. Here are ways you can do to treat chafing:

  • Gently clean the chafed area with water and dry it. You may use mild and gentle soap free from fragrances and harsh chemicals to clean it.
  • Ensure the skin is dry after cleaning and avoid rubbing too rough when drying. Try pat instead.
  • After cleaning the area, apply skin barrier substances such as petroleum jelly or aloe vera gel to promote healing.
  • If the chafed area shows great signs of inflammation such as pain, swollen, bleeding or crusted, it would be best to get checked by a doctor as they can recommend specific medicated ointment.
  • You should avoid being active again until the chafed skin heals.
  • If skin chafing does not improve at all, do meet a doctor as you may need medication such as antibiotics should the area be infected.

The best way to prevent chafed skin is to take preventative measures. While it is true that there is no guarantee that you would not get chafed skin, taking prevention steps can certainly lower the risk for developing the skin condition. Here are what you can do to minimise risk for chafed skin:

  • Wear appropriate clothing and avoid ill-fitting clothes
  • Wear sport-oriented clothing made from special breathable material such as synthetic fibres when doing sports or exercise
  • Apply anti-chafing cream or ointment on skin that is likely to become irritated by skin-on-skin contact
  • Use talcum powder to the areas that get the most sweaty to help keep moisture at bay
  • Avoid being in wet or sweaty clothes

In essence, chafing skin is a result of friction and excess moisture of the skin. Anyone can develop chafing but there are certain people who are more likely to get it. It is important to treat chafed skin because when left untreated, can cause further problems such as infection to the deeper part of the skin. In rare cases, it may result in sepsis which is a life-threatening condition. Taking preventative measures can help reduce the likelihood of getting chafed skin. It is best to get checked by a doctor whenever there are signs of chafed skin that does not heal or gets worse. This is because over-the-counter medication and home remedies might not be enough in some cases. Chafed skin in those with obesity or diabetes tends to continue when the health condition itself is not properly managed. In most healthy people, chafed skin should not be a great deal or pose a threat to overall health.

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