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Allergies Health Center

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Surprisingly Ouchy Plants

Treating Skin Irritation

Thorns and spines can cut your skin. And exposure to tiny hairs or fibers can cause red bumps or patches, swelling, pain, or itching. "But anytime you have inflammation of the skin, a lot of the treatment is the same," says Katta. First rule of thumb: avoid further irritation. "Anytime your skin is irritated, you really want to baby it."

Clean the wound. Wash the skin with mild soap and water right away. Katta says to avoid witch hazel or rubbing alcohol, which can irritate skin.

Remove any remaining spines or barbs. Use tweezers to remove visible thorns. For tiny hairs or glochids, one method is to apply cellophane tape, and then peel it off -- along with any remaining barbs. If that doesn't work, one study found that applying a thin layer of household glue to the skin, topping it with a layer of gauze, and removing it after 30 minutes removed the majority of spines.

Ease pain and itching. A simple method to calm irritated skin is to use a cool water compress, says Katta. Just soak a clean washcloth in tap water and apply it to the skin for 15 minutes. You may also try an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or antihistamine to relieve itching and discomfort from a minor scrape.

Soothe skin with moisture-rich creams. With just a cut or scratch, pure petroleum jelly applied to the cut provides a little extra moisture that seems to aid in wound healing, says Katta.

Cover with a bandage. This can help prove a little extra protection during the day, then you can remove the bandage to let it air out at night, says Katta.

Monitor the area for signs of infection. "Anytime you have a long scrape in your skin, for instance because you bumped up against a saw palmetto plant, you can get a secondary infection if you're not careful," says Katta.

If irritated skin is not healing properly, you see pus, or an increase in redness or warmth over the span of a few days, then that can indicate that an infection is developing, she says. In that case, it's best to call your doctor.

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