It’s a pretty common complaint: You’re constantly looking at your skin and trying to feel what’s under your skin.
The more you scratch, the more itching and irritation you’re likely to experience.
If you’ve never been exposed to a rash, the symptoms may be mild or even moderate, depending on where you live and what the rash is.
If that’s the case, your body’s natural defense mechanism against infection might be a bit stronger than you think.
The natural defense system is an antibody-making compound that’s made in your skin, and it’s used to keep viruses and bacteria at bay.
This is the case for your body against a number of infections, including: Herpes simplex, or HSV-2, which can cause mild to moderate symptoms like burning, itching, redness, and swelling; and HIV, which is a serious infection that can cause serious complications including death and serious disability.
If your itch is mild, the body’s defenses don’t kick in, and you might experience mild, temporary itching and/or burning for a few hours or even days.
But if your itch gets worse, you might not notice it for months.
The only way to know for sure is to use a dermatologist to examine your skin for signs of an infection.
“We have a very high-end diagnostic lab here in Toronto,” says Dr. Daniel J. Raff, director of the Canadian National Institute of Health Research (CNIR), in an interview with CBC News.
“We test a lot of patients in the clinic.
So if you have symptoms that look like an infection, then we can actually see if you’re infected with HSV, we can see if the immune system is down or is up.”
So if your itching is moderate, but the itch doesn’t seem to be going away, then you’re probably infected with an HSV infection.
Rasset says you should consult a dermatology professional to rule out HSV.
But if the itch is severe and persistent, your skin might actually be showing signs of infection.
It can cause symptoms like: Scratches and abrasions, which look like the bumps of a swollen rash, or a burning sensation; a red or red-tinted skin tone, like you might get from a burn; a crusty rash or redness around the mouth, lips, or eyes; or a swollen, red, or tender spot on your upper arm, leg, or back.
Rasset and colleagues at CNIR, the University of Toronto and the University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto are investigating the cause of this type of skin infection.
They’ve recently completed a phase 1 trial, which included over 100 patients.
The results of the trial, published in the journal PLOS One, showed that the majority of the patients who participated experienced no symptoms at all after one month of treatment with lavender oil.
Rattet says the study was also the first to look at whether the results were due to the natural immunity response, which protects against HSV by binding to the virus’s proteins and preventing it from replicating.
But she’s not sure whether the natural defense mechanisms were the reason for the difference between mild and severe itch.
“This is a small sample size of patients,” Rassets says.
“It’s very preliminary, and we don’t have a good understanding of what the effects of the natural immune response might be in people who don’t respond to antiviral therapy.
It’s hard to know how it might relate to HSV infections in the general population.”
So what’s the real story behind this natural defense reaction?
“This study does provide some data to suggest that there may be something that we have to consider in terms of the antiviral response in people,” Raff says.
But he cautions that it’s too early to tell whether the study’s findings are accurate or not.
“The study has a lot more study to do before we can really say definitively that this natural immune reaction is involved in this.”
What can you do about it?
There’s a lot you can do to help reduce your itch.
If your itch’s not going away on its own, it’s possible to apply a mild anti-itch cream.
“I think that most people will be better off if they try to keep the itching to a minimum,” says Raff.
“If they use a moisturizer, then I think that’s a good option to try to avoid the burning sensation that you get from rubbing against your skin.”
There are also a few other ways to reduce your itching: Take a bath every day, which will help to kill off any microorganisms that might be spreading the infection.
“Some people will find that this reduces the itching, but others may find that they actually don’t need to do this,” says Rattet.
“One of the things that we do is have patients in our lab go in for two sessions