Itchy, irritated skin is often a sign of nettle rash (also known as urticaria). According to aha Swiss Allergy Centre, approximately one person in five suffers from nettle rash at some time in their life. It generally affects adults, with women being twice as likely to suffer from it as men.
Doctors differentiate between two kinds of nettle rash, depending on how long the symptoms persist.
In the case of acute nettle rash, the swellings develop suddenly and generally disappear after a few hours or days.
In chronic nettle rash, the symptoms may persist for six weeks or more, but this period may include days or even weeks when there are no symptoms.
The commonest causes of acute nettle rash are bacterial and viral infections, adverse reactions to medication, and food allergies.
It is more difficult to pinpoint the causes of chronic nettle rash. External stimuli, such as major differences in temperature, in association with physical or mental stress are often responsible for the rash. Allergies are rarely the cause.
Antihistamines, taken in the form of tablets or drops, are usually effective in treating acute nettle rash. Sufferers can also apply body lotion to the skin to keep it moisturised.
With chronic nettle rash, treatment tends to focus on relieving the itch since the cause is difficult to pin down. Antihistamines therefore form the basis of the therapy which generally lasts for a number of weeks or months.
• If the nettle rash is due to a food allergy or intolerance, it makes good sense to change your diet. Experienced dietary assistants will be happy to help. SWICA supports you by providing generous contributions towards dietary analysis and advice. You can find out more here.
• If the nettle rash is triggered by physical or mental stress, relaxation techniques (e.g. autogenic training) can be useful.
sante24 – your health advice helpline
The doctors and medical staff of sante24 are available to share their expertise on health issues, free of charge and around the clock. They will also make a doctor's appointment for you on request.