Whenever I bathe, my body itches for about 30 minutes. It does not matter whether the water is cold or warm. I have lived with this condition for over 5 years. I have had several check-ups but the medicine prescribed has not been helpful. What could be wrong?
Itching over the body after bathing can be due to multiple reasons, most common being a dry skin. Dry skin tends to get irritated when water falls over it. Skin produces oil as natural protective covering. Hot water and harsh chemicals present in body care products tend to deplete this oil resulting in dryness and itching. Cold water bath can also irritate the skin, though less in intensity. Bath can cause itching due to the presence of chemicals causing dryness. Soap, bath gels, shampoos and chemical cosmetic substances used for bathing tend to induce and augment the itching.
Itching can also be due to allergy caused by chemicals in the water or cosmetic products. Towels can also cause allergy and itching after scrubbing the body dry after a bath. This can be due to the chemicals, soap or any detergent sticking on the towel fibers. The fabric of the towel can also cause allergy. Nylon towels are more likely to cause allergy and itching after use than the ones made of pure cotton. Scrubbing itself can irritate the skin and cause itching. Eczema or other inflammatory skin conditions, if present, may cause itching after a bath, due to the irritation caused by water and soap.
Aquagenic pruritis is a rare condition, where one can have allergy to water itself and weal or eruptions with itching can appear after a bath. The longer the contact with water, the greater the risk.
Fungal infections can also cause intermittent itching. One can acquire this infection from wearing damp clothes, shoes, or a damp atmosphere. Contamination occurs due to fungal spores present in a damp atmosphere.
Treatment taken can cure the infection present in superficial layers of skin, but in favourable conditions like dampness, spores from deeper layer can come up repeatedly or there can be re infection, thus perpetuating the infection. Diabetic patients and those with reduced immunity like HIV infection, etc are more prone to repeated or persistent fungal infection. To avoid the discomfort of itching after bathing, it is advised to take short baths, with lukewarm or cold water. Also try herbal body care products like those containing aloe vera, etc. Use soft cotton towels and scrub the body dry gently. Use some soft moisturizing lotion after to prevent dryness and itching. If itching is continuous, a short course of some anti allergy medicine or applying anti allergy ointment for some days would be beneficial.
Dr Rachna Pande is a specialist in internal medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital