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Chafing: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Treatment & Prevention

A common skin problem, chafing is caused by moisture, friction and fabric. You are to experience skin chafing, especially if you are an exercise enthusiast or are overweight. Chafing can develop anywhere on your body and are increasingly common on your thighs, underarms, groin and nipples.

In severe cases, chafing can lead to swelling, bleeding and crusting. When your skin experiences prolonged rubbing or any force of this intensity continuously, it tends to sting or burn and results in rashes [1] .

Chafing commonly develops on areas in your body and body parts that have contact with fabric or that rub against each other [2] .

Causes Of Chafing

The most common causes that lead to chafing are as follows [3] :

  • Exercise and strenuous activities
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Hot or humid environments
  • Clothing (certain types of fabric such as cotton, denim, leather, etc. as well as tight, restrictive, or wet clothing)
  • Breastfeeding mothers can develop chafed nipples
  • Diaper (prolonged exposure to urine or faeces and not enough airflow can cause chafing)

Symptoms Of Chafing

A feeling of sore or extremely tender skin with a burning sensation is the most common sign of chafing. However, the level of chafing can range from mild to severe [4] :

Mild chafing: The symptoms are not that prominent. Mild chafing is when you may notice that certain areas such as thighs, groin, underarms, nipples, feet feel tender and raw. The signs are not noticeable until the affected area is touched or rubs against clothing or another object.

The symptoms of mild chafing are stinging, burning, excessive irritation and itching [5] .

Severe chafing: The other type of chafing, the symptoms become prominent after extremely strenuous activities or when previously mild chafing was not properly treated or ignored. The skin can become swollen due to inflammation [6] .

  • Bleeding
  • Blisters or sores
  • Cracked, or broken skin
  • Swelling of the affected area

Complications Of Chafing

When your skin chaffs, the protective barrier of your skin against germs and infection is destroyed. The complications of chafing are as follow, which needs the immediate attention of a medical professional [7] .

  • Bleeding
  • Discolouration
  • Swelling
  • Crust

Treatment For Chafing

The medical attention and care provided for the condition are as follows [8] :

  • Applying a soothing lotion, balm, or oil
  • Using a topical steroid
  • Lubricants, as it can help reduce friction to the skin.

Some of the other means through which skin chafing is treated are as follows:

  • Avoiding whatever caused the problem
  • Getting fresh air
  • Dressing right (for the occasion, such as proper-fitting, moisture-wicking clothes for exercises etc.)
  • Staying dry (apply talcum or alum powders)

Prevention Of Chafing

Frequent attention and patience is the first and foremost step in preventing the onset of chafing [9] :

  • Use antiperspirants as they can prevent sweating before it causes a problem
  • Creams, oils, and powders can provide a layer of protection and reduce friction
  • Materials like cotton retain sweat and moisture and keep your skin damp
  • Wear properly fitting clothes
  • For specific areas that flare up often, you can prevent chafing by using a soft bandage

FAQs On Chafing

Q. How do I stop my inner thighs from chafing?

A. Get yourself a pair of bike shorts with built-in rash guards, use thigh bands, use lotions and powders that prevent chafing.

Q. How do you treat male groin chafing?

A. Ease some of the irritation by using a cold compress or ice pack on the affected area, gently scrub your chafed skin to cleanse and remove any debris or sweat from the affected area, use a moisture-rich ointment over the affected area and avoid harsh soaps or chemicals that might aggravate the affected area [10] .

Q. Is baby powder good for chafing?

A. Yes.

Q. Does pubic hair cause chafing?

A. No. It protects your skin from getting chaffed.

View Article References
  1. [1] Basler, R. S., Hunzeker, C. M., Garcia, M. A., & Dexter, W. (2004). Athletic skin injuries: combating pressure and friction. The Physician and sportsmedicine, 32(5), 33-40.
  2. [2] Basler, R. S., & Garcia, M. A. (1998). Acing common skin problems in tennis players. The Physician and sportsmedicine, 26(12), 37-44.
  3. [3] Rochholz, R. S. (2015). U.S. Patent No. 9,095,182. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  4. [4] Sternoff, W. R., Wingfield, W., & Reed, F. (2016). U.S. Patent No. 9,393,261. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  5. [5] Farage, M. A., & Maibach, H. I. (2010). Sensitive skin: closing in on a physiological cause. Contact dermatitis, 62(3), 137-149.
  6. [6] Huston, T. L. (2001). U.S. Patent No. 6,207,873. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  7. [7] Wilkinson, D. S. (1985). Dermatitis from repeated trauma to the skin. American journal of industrial medicine, 8(4‐5), 307-317.
  8. [8] Siddappa, K. (2003). Dry skin conditions, eczema and emollients in their management. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, 69(2), 69.
  9. [9] Havlickova, B., Czaika, V. A., & Friedrich, M. (2008). Epidemiological trends in skin mycoses worldwide. Mycoses, 51, 2-15.
  10. [10] Tammen, M. K., & Wright, R. K. (2019). U.S. Patent Application No. 16/186,108.

Read more about: skin problems
Story first published: Monday, October 21, 2019, 12:44 [IST]
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