Does your underarm feel itchy all day long and cause unending discomfort? Does scratching give you temporary relief only to feel itchy after a while? Does the area remain red and feels painful on touching? Well then, it is quite possible that you have armpit rashes which may have developed due to a variety of reasons and can be quite uncomfortable if treatment isn’t pursued in the right direction.
What is an Armpit Rash?
Pruritus or an armpit rash is a skin condition where the skin of the underarms become reddened and scarred due to an infection. The condition is also accompanied by the growth of lesions in the regions that cause irritation and pain. Underarm rashes are particularly very uncomfortable and itchy as they remain covered and enclosed most of the time, thus alleviating the symptoms and making it difficult to achieve a relief quite easily. A burning sensation may also accompany the armpit rashes and the symptoms tend to enhance with time if not treated.
Armpit rashes may occur in both men and women and may affect people of various age groups, including children and infants. Though usually benign, they may lead to complications sometimes.
Symptoms of Armpit Rashes
Much like other rashes, underarm rashes also exhibit a number of familiar symptoms that may be listed as below:
Armpit rashes are typically characterized by small, pimple-like eruptions that spread all over the skin in the affected area. These eruptions can be white or red depending on whether they contain pus or not and cause pain when touched or rubbed.
Itching is a common symptom of underarm rashes. Irrespective of the causal factor, armpit rashes usually itch quite a lot, making the sufferer quite uncomfortable. Though scratching the area may offer instant relief, the feeling is temporary and it may also worsen the pain.
The swelling, as well as the constant itching of the rashes, gives rise to irritation. Inability to scratch the area may ramify the situation while scratching the area from time to time may give rise to a burning sensation under the arms.
The infection causing the rashes often makes the particular area red and gives a blotchy appearance.
When left untreated for a prolonged period, rashes may develop blisters that are filled with clear fluid.
The infection may also cause the skin to flake out, thereby making it scaly and rough.
Infection of the armpits may also cause the skin in the area to develop cracks that are painful.
The infection combined with the constant itching may cause the area to become tender that emits pain even on touching.
Bleeding or Bruising:
Prolonged scratching of the infected skin may cause bleeding in the area or make the skin bruised.
Causes of Underarm Rashes (Armpit Rashes)
Since the armpit remains covered and folded most of the times, infections of different types easily spread in the underarms area. These infections lead to rashes that become itchy and cause irritation to the person unless some sort of treatment procedure is followed. The main reasons that lead to the occurrence of armpit rashes are as follows:
1. Poor Hygiene:
One of the most common causes of armpit rashes is unhygienic practices. The underarms area needs to be washed and cleaned regularly and kept dry and soft at all times. If this doesn’t happen or the skin is continuously exposed to harmful chemicals, rashes may develop and spread in the armpits.
2. Miliaria Rubra:
Commonly known as heat rash, miliaria rubra is a skin condition that develops mostly during the hot summers. This type of infection is caused by the harsh weather conditions and can occur in people of all age groups. However, children are more at risk as they have underdeveloped sweat glands.
3. Auxiliary Hyperhidrosis:
Excess production of sweat by the sweat glands is referred to as auxiliary hyperhidrosis. Not only does the condition creates bad odor and embarrassing staining of clothes, excess sweating keeps the underarms moist at all times, thus making it the breeding ground for bacteria that can cause rashes and itches.
4. Axillary Lymphadenopathy:
The enlargement of the lymph glands located in the armpits may also cause rashes and itching. The condition is mainly known as Axillary Lymphadenopathy and is usually benign. However, the lump caused by the enlarged lymph glands usually cause irritation and infection which lead to armpit rashes. However, if the swelling is too big or doesn’t decrease in size even after a long time, it may indicate malignancy that needs immediate medical attention.
5. Axillary Folliculitis:
A bacterial infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus can also cause rashes in the underarms. The bacteria affect one or more hair follicles of the armpit and cause the area to swell and become full of abscess which gradually becomes itchy. Big swellings can also cause scarring.
6. Hidradenitis Suppurativa:
An infection and inflammation of the sweat glands in the armpit may lead to the formation of lesions on the skin. These lesions are usually caused due to the constant friction of the underarm area and may become large and cause pain and rashes. It is a chronic condition and itching of the area may lead to further ramifications. When the lesions burst, scarring may occur.
7. Inverse Psoriasis:
Inverse psoriasis mainly affects skin folds, including the armpits. The condition is characterized by excessive growth of skin cells in a particular area that makes it thick and scaly which causes itching and rashes. More commonly occurring in people with obesity, inverse psoriasis or flexural psoriasis can be painful and cannot be completely cured.
Cause by dermatophyte, a fungus, ringworm is a fungal infection that causes scaly and dry skin accompanied by circular lesions. The rash usually has shifts of broken hair along with inflamed and clear skin at the center.
Another common cause of the rashes could be dermatitis. It is a skin condition where the skin becomes inflamed and is accompanied by lesion and itching. Dermatitis mainly occurs if the skin is hypersensitive and may often be inherited. According to the causal factor, dermatitis can of the following types:
- Atopic Dermatitis
This type of rashes usually develops during childhood. Commonly known as eczema, this type of rash not only affects the areas of the armpit, but also can occur on the rear portion of the knees, the inner folds of the elbow, etc. Eczema is usually characterized by itchy, red and crusting skin. Bleeding can also occur because of the intense itch that accompanies eczema. The rashes may sometimes produce a type of clear fluid. Though the skin remains normal during most of the year, flare-ups occur during certain periods of the year, making the situation extremely uncomfortable.
- Seborrheic Dermatitis
It is a type of skin irritation that occurs partly due to excess production of skin oils. This type of rashes is quite unlike those of eczema. While eczema patches are dry, these patches appear to be oily. The scales may also turn yellow or white due to the presence of excess oil in the area. Seborrheic dermatitis may also occur in the form cradle cap in infants and usually affects different areas of the body above the shoulders, including the armpits.
- Contact Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis mainly occurs due to direct contact with an irritant or allergen. Use of lotion or deodorant containing allergens may cause rashes under the armpit. Contact dermatitis can also be caused due to an irritant in your laundry detergent, clothing fabric, etc.
Candida is a common yeast or fungal infection that affects parts of the body that remain moist during most times, including the armpits. Candida causes rashes, itching, swelling and scaling of the skin and can worsen during humid or hot weather, due to tight clothing or as a result of unhygienic habits. However, unlike other types of armpit rashes, candida needs to be treated with an antifungal cream and not steroid creams.
Shaving of the underarms could also be a reason for the development of armpit rashes. Since, armpits remain mostly covered and away from the sun, the skin in the area is usually much more sensitive than other parts of the body that are commonly shaved. As such, the blunt edges of a razor may cause irritation to the sensitive skin that may lead to the break of rashes. Rashes may also occur due to ingrown hair and razor bumps in the underarms.
Wearing tight dresses may also be a causal factor. If the fabric isn’t quite suitable for the skin, constant friction against the fabric for long periods could cause rashes in the underarms.
Mild cases of underarm rashes are often seen during pregnancy, predominantly in the first three months. Though this is usually a common occurrence and no special treatment is needed, in certain cases, the rashes may worsen gradually and this needs special medical attention. Delay could prove to be fatal.
Other Minor Causes of Underarm Rashes
- Excess stress
- Insect bites
- Lyme disease
- Food poisoning
- Staph infections
- Strep throat
- Pityriasis rosea
- Mumps, measles, scarlet fever, roseola or rubella
- Severe viral diseases such as chicken pox or shingles
- Poor immunity due to STDs or drugs
- Medicines that may cause allergies
Apart from these, armpit rashes may also be caused as a symptom of other severe diseases that need quick medical treatment. For example, people undergoing anaphylaxis or allergic purpura may develop a rash and are in need of proper medical care at the earliest possible. These ailments are quite serious and not treated on time, may cause serious complications.
Diagnosing Armpit Rashes
Diagnosing the causal factor of armpit rashes is extremely important before opting for any curative process. Not all processes and techniques are preferable for all types of underarm rashes and hence, it is important that you see a doctor before opting for any treatment. A doctor can, usually, determine the cause by a physical examination of the rash and after listening to the symptoms. A further detailed checkup isn’t usually needed unless the rash is a symptom of some other disease.
Treatment of Armpit Rashes
Armpit rashes(Underarm Rashes) aren’t usually very serious and their treatment is quite easily possible with the help of a variety of home remedies as well as OTC medications and lotions. Let’s take a look at the various options that are available.
Quick Treatment of Armpit Rashes(Underarm Rashes)
- Avoid Scratching
If you have developed a rash, it is quite natural that it will start itching sooner rather than later. But scratching your rashes may make the condition worse and the area may start bleeding.
- Cool Compress
Since the inflammation and swelling of the area cause the maximum discomfort, an ideal way to start the treatment of armpit rashes is by the use of a cool compress. This is a very easy procedure. You can easily use a readily available ice pack or make one at home by using some ice cubes. Hold the pack gently against the affected area for some time and the swelling will reduce, leaving behind a soothing effect. You can repeat this procedure as often as you want. You may also use a damp towel for the procedure.
- Take a Warm Bath
Those suffering from armpit rashes are also recommended to take a warm bath in water mixed with finely grained unflavored oats. Make a fine powder of about 6 cups of oatmeal and add the powder to the warm bath. Remain in the water for about 10-15 minutes while ensuring that your armpits are under water. The oatmeal soothes the infected skin and will also help cure the rashes.
- Stay in Cooler Areas
Irrespective of whether it is a heat rash or not, try staying in cooler areas that will prevent excess humidity and sweat from worsening the condition. Cool conditions will also help prevent the burning sensation in the area and keep it soothed. If possible, stay in air-conditioned areas as much as possible.
- Drink Water in Plenty
Drinking plenty of water will help keep the body cool and ward off unnecessary sweating that may make matters worse. However, do not consume coffee, energy drinks or any other fluid that may enhance diuresis.
- Relax Yourself
The itching can cause constant discomfort and to get out of this, you need to relax your body as much as possible. Yoga or meditation may help the body gain a cool composure and relieve the itchiness to an extent. You may also try engaging in an activity that you find interesting and may help you divert your attention like reading a book, listening to music, etc.
- Use Anti-itching Lotions or Cream
A variety of anti-itching creams are easily available in the market and they will help reduce the itchiness in the area that can cause discomfort and embarrassment. Most such ointments and creams contain menthol, Vitamin E, aloe vera, etc. as the main ingredients as these can help to cool down the area.
Home Remedies of Armpit Rash
- Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties and will help cure the infection that’s causing the rash. It is also a soothing agent. Direct application of the aloe vera gel extracted from the leaf can cure the rash. The gel can be mixed with turmeric powder as well for enhanced benefits. The process can be repeated 3-4 times every day.
- Coconut Oil
In the virgin state, coconut oil can help treat the infection and soothe and soften the skin as well. It can be applied directly to the affected area and should be left undisturbed till it is completely absorbed by the skin. Clothes must be worn only after that. Can be done quite a few times daily.
- Tea Tree Oil
Another effective way of treating armpit rashes is by applying tea tree oil regularly to the infected area. Tea tree oil should be mixed with extra virgin olive oil and the mixture should be applied to dry armpits and allowed to settle for about 10 minutes. The antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties of the mixture can help cure the infection and eliminate the rashes.
- Neem Water
Also known as Indian lilac, Neem leaves are known for their excellent anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, antiseptic, analgesic, and antimicrobial benefits. Heat a bowl of water with a few neam leaves to lukewarm and then cool it. Use the cool water for cleansing the armpits, twice or thrice daily, until the skin becomes healthy. You can also use neem oil instead of neem leaves.
Turmeric itself can be a good cure for skin rashes under the arms. Turmeric is loaded with anti-fungal, antiseptic, antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties which make it a perfect cure for infections of the skin. Moreover, it can soothe your skin and alleviate symptoms like itching, irritation, redness, inflammation, etc. that occur during armpit rashes.
Being rich in citric acid and Vitamin C, lemon can easily fight infection, thereby helping in curing the rashes. Lemon can be directly rubbed on to the affected area or can be mixed with raw honey and applied to the infection.
- Baking Soda
Using baking soda on the rashes can also enhance the healing process. Being alkaline, it helps maintain pH level in the applied area and thus prevent inflammation, itching, and dryness.
- Potassium Alum
Potassium alum has antiseptic benefits that can help in eliminating the effects of bacteria and speed up the curing process.
- Shea Butter
Shea butter moisturizes from deep within and can soothe the irritation and reduce the burning sensation and the itching. It also has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-microbial properties that can aid the healing process.
Medical Treatment of Armpit Rashes
- Anti-Chafing Powders
Though these powders do not help heal the rashes, they can significantly help with the itchiness and irritation.
- Anti-Fungal Creams
Underarm rashes caused due to fungal infection can be effectively treated with anti-fungal creams that contain nystatin, ketoconazole, clotrimazole, etc. which have excellent anti-fungal properties.
- Hydrocortisone Creams
These creams are ideal for suppressing the irritation and inflammation. Most common of these creams are calamine lotions. However, these creams are a strict no-no in case of fungal infection.
- Oral Pills
Oral medication like Benadryl can help prevent the itching that accompanies the rashes. However, these pills must be accompanied by lotions, creams, etc. that help in curing the infection that has caused the rashes.
Preventing Armpit Rashes
Armpit rashes may not usually pose serious complications, but they may cause embarrassment and discomfort that one has to deal with until the rashes are entirely healed. As such, it would be wise to adopt precautionary measures so that the occurrence of underarm rashes can be prevented to a large extent. These measures are usually very simple and you do not have to devote much time and effort to ensure that you stay clear of the rashes. Some of the most common steps that can help in preventing armpit rashes are as follows:
- Maintain good hygiene. It is important that you take a bath daily and cleanse the underarm areas properly so that no dirt and grime can clog the pores.
- Use antiseptic and mild soaps to clean the skin folds and other closed off areas of the body, including your armpits.
- Avoid using deodorants or fragrances that contain harsh chemicals or have allergens. You can try an antiperspirant instead.
- Apply talcum powder to your armpits that can effectively soak sweat and minimize skin friction.
- Keep the armpit areas cool and dry as much as possible. Avoid too much humid or moist condition.
- Make sure that you avoid wearing body-hugging clothes that prevent normal airflow to the armpits.
- Try to use fabric that is gentle on the skin and does not cause too much friction to the sensitive skin.
- While washing your clothes, avoid fabric softeners and harmful detergents.
- Instead of shaving your underarms, try opting for waxing or other methods that are less irritating to the skin.
- If your exercise regime leads to heat rashes, it’s better that you slow down a bit so that your body doesn’t have to deal with too much of heat.
- Certain medications may also lead to rashes. If you see rashes developing after taking a certain medicine, talk to your doctor about an alternative medication.
- Stay away from food items that you are allergic to.
- Add a good amount of Vitamin C to your daily diet to prevent the occurrence of skin issues.
- Use vitamin E rich products for your skin that will help keep your skin fresh and lively.
- You can also add probiotics to your daily diet to cure and prevent underarm rashes.
- Try to keep stress at bay as stressful conditions may lead to nasty rashes in the body.
- Do expose your skin to poisonous plants like poison sumac, poison ivy, etc. that may cause severe rashes.
Complications that May Arise
Armpit rashes aren’t usually a serious condition, but if treatment isn’t started at the right time, the rashes may develop into large pustules or bumps that may cause too much pain. Moreover, if the rash is a symptom of some other disease like HIV or severe allergic reactions, lack of proper treatment may put the patient at risk and worsen the primary ailment that caused the rashing. If the rashes do not go away even after general treatment for rashes, a skin biopsy may be needed.
Can Children have Armpit Rashes?
Like people of all other age groups, children, too, may suffer from infections that may cause rashes in the underarms. Major causes of rashes in children or infants are excess heat, rubella, eczema, yeast or fungal infections, psoriasis, Acanthosis nigricans, erythrasma, dermatitis, ringworm, etc. To prevent the attacks, it is important that you keep your child away from dyes, chemicals, perfumes, high grass, weeds, etc. Make sure that the child’s skin remains soft and moisturized at all times with kid-friendly moisturizers or body massages. Cleaning your child thoroughly during bath time is important, but do not overdo it as that may cause bruising on the soft skin. A pediatrician may guide you the best in the choice of products that are ideal for your child.
An underarm rash may not seem to be a big deal initially, but the situation worsens quite quickly and may become a nagging problem. Not only does it lead to constant discomfort and an unsightly appearance, it may become serious if it starts developing blisters or if the skin starts developing fissures. Fortunately, very simple healing techniques are available and one or more of them can be implemented to cure the issue and achieve fresh, healthy skin in the underarm area.