Chapped skin or chafing is the wearing away of the protective layer of skin over a specific area, most commonly in the softer skin of the joints and other body creases. It is usually caused by the rubbing of tough material over soft skin, but without sufficient force to produce a blister or enough pressure to cause a bed sore.
Causes For Chapped Skin.
Chafing can occur in all age groups, but particularly among the young. In babies, tight, wet diapers may rub against the soft skin of the thigh or tummy, and tight elastic on plastic pants can rub and cause distress. The same thing can happen if a bib rubs or if the straps of a baby bouncer or a carrying device prove too tight or are badly designed.
Children will chafe at the back of their knees if the area is exposed to the wind and sun. Older girls who are keen on horses may get ‘saddle sore’, a form of chafing due to the buttocks bumping or rubbing against the saddle.
Many young people who wear too tight jeans get chafing because the denim rubs against their skin. The wearing of tight shoes can cause a similar problem. Protective clothing, like slickers, can rub necks and wrists, and wet ropes will chafe hands. Any combination of wet and cold will make the condition much worse because water softens the skin so that the hard protective layer is more easily damaged.
Symptoms of Chapped Skin.
Chafed areas can be extremely sore because the nerve endings are exposed. The area appears red and rough, and if severe, small cracks may develop and bleed. These may become infected if not treated quickly.
In babies, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between chafing and eczema: in general eczema itches and requires specific treatment. Chafing is painful and sore rather than irritating.
Chafed areas of skin require protection from further damage. The cause of the friction must be removed and this may mean different clothes, softer diapers or padding the area with dry material.
Babies can be protected from the wet if zinc and castor oil are applied to the affected areas. Baby powder should be used after drying following a bath. Less bulky diapers should also be used.
Provided the damage is not severe, chafed skin heals within two or three days. A site of continuous chafing will develop thickened skin. If the causes are removed, chafing will not recur.
How To Prevent Chafing?
- Wash and clean skin regularly, particularly the danger areas such as creases.
- Watch out for rubbed areas, especially where elastic or plastic comes in contact with the skin.
- Keep potential chafed areas dry—in the creases, groin, behind the ears, under the chin and behind the knees. Dribbling mouths and wet diapers prime the skin for chafing.
- Protect skin with zinc and castor oil which acts as a water proofer, especially in the diaper area.
- Avoid wind, sea and sun on chafed areas. Allow them to heal fully before exposing them further.
- See a doctor if chafing will not heal or if you are worried it might be eczema.
- Leave creases wet. Instead, dry gently and apply powder.
- Use harsh cloth diapers or tight elastic pants on babies. You should change plastic bibs to toweling bibs when chafing occurs.
- Use carry straps or carrying equipment directly against a baby’s skin. Be sure that the baby is wearing loose, soft clothing or pad out the area.
Frequently Asked Questions.
1. I don’t use plastic pants on my baby but she still gets red and sore in the diaper area. Could the diapers be too hard?
Probably not. Redness and soreness directly in the diaper area are probably due to diaper rash, which is caused by the effect of urine on the skin in that area. You will need to treat this separately. Redness where the diaper has come into contact with the skin at the point the limbs join the body and around the waist and legs is probably chafing. You could try changing the type of diaper, but usually the reason is that the skin needs extra protection. Apply a lubricant; loosen the diaper a bit and the problem should clear up.
2. My toddler always has sores behind both ears. They are painful to clean so he never lets me dry them properly. What can I do?
It is essential to dry the skin in the creases behind the ears gently but thoroughly. Dead skin tends to build up in areas like this if not cleared away regularly, and it can chafe, especially when water from a bath lingers and softens the area.
Start gently by using a protective cream such as zinc and castor oil and once the area is healed, dry scrupulously after every bath.
3. My fisherman son comes home with his wrists rubbed raw from his oil skin jacket. How can he prevent this?
Your son has either to change to a softer jacket, or protect the skin of his wrist with a wristlet or soft Jumper. Healing is best left to nature. However, the skin should be cleaned and, if the chafing is really severe, a dry dressing will prevent further chafing while it heals.
4. My baby has a patch of redness behind both knees. Could this be chafing?
Chafing or chapped skin behind the knee in a small baby is unusual unless here is good cause, such as rubbing. Infantile eczema, the sort which clears when the child grows up, can affect that area, and it is important that your doctor rules out this condition before you treat it.
Therefore, chapped skin is any rubbing of the skin can cause redness, soreness and roughness, particularly in babies and children. Though it is easy to treat, the best remedy is to avoid it.
Experienced in the field of nutrition, health, fitness, and more. She earned Master Degree from National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad and currently serving in the Eastern branch of ICMR. View author’s certificates.