What is Intertrigo?
Intertrigo is a common rash that typically occurs in skin folds, such as the armpits, between the toes, between the buttocks, the groin area (especially in men), neck creases and the underside of the breasts and stomach. The cause is most often friction combined with trapped heat and moisture.
Intertrigo Risk Factors
Intertrigo can affect anyone, though it’s more common in infants (diaper rash is a form of intertrigo) and older adults. Poor hygiene is one risk factor. Elderly people who have mobility issues that make bathing difficult are more susceptible.
Other factors that make people vulnerable to intertrigo include:
- Excessive sweating
- Using a splint or brace or having an artificial limb
- Hot, humid weather
- A weakened immune system
- Wearing clothes or shoes that are too tight
Symptoms of intertrigo include reddish or red-brown raw skin that may itch, sting or burn. The skin may become scaly and crusty and the rash may ooze. Another possible symptom is maceration, in which the skin feels soft or soggy and looks pale and wrinkly.
People with intertrigo may also have a secondary skin infection. That’s because the condition makes it easier for bacteria, as well as yeast and other fungi (which thrive in warm, moist environments), to flourish. Signs of an infection include a worsening of intertrigo symptoms and a musty or foul odor.
Intertrigo is typically treated by identifying and managing the factors that caused the rash. The most important measure is keeping the affected area as clean and dry as possible. That means showering regularly, especially after exercise. Be sure to pat yourself dry thoroughly.
Home remedies your dermatologist might recommend include applying a zinc oxide paste or ointment, such as Desitin, which acts as a mild astringent and skin protectant, and applying Burow’s solution, sold under several brand names including Domeboro, as a compress. Burow’s solution helps dry out rashes and relieve itching and stinging.
If your intertrigo involves an infection, the provider may prescribe topical antibiotics or anti-fungals. If the infection is bacterial, you may be advised to wash the area with antibacterial soap. If the infection is more severe, you may need to take oral antibiotics or anti-fungals. The doctor may also recommend a low-dose corticosteroid to relieve itching.
In addition to keeping skin folds clean and dry, experts recommend these tips to avoid repeat bouts of intertrigo:
• Lose weight if you need to.
• Choose open-toed shoes when possible to allow air flow between the toes.
• Wear a supportive bra.
• Wear loose, breathable and absorbent clothing (think cotton over man-made fibers such as nylon).
• Dry skin folds with a hair dryer set on cool if they are still damp after toweling off.
• Apply the over-the-counter powder Zeasorb AF to skin folds once or twice a day to absorb moisture.
• Control heat and humidity in your home with air conditioning and a dehumidifier.