Intertrigo is a skin condition that can occur anywhere on the body where skin touches skin. Medical treatment and at home prevention can help clear the rash and reduce irritation.
Skin conditions commonly affect the folds of the skin, especially when the skin is wet or sweaty. This can lead to irritation, inflammation, and even infection. Intertrigo, a common skin condition that can
The good news? With some know-how, you can often treat it at home and prevent it from returning. Here’s how to spot an intertrigo rash and what you can do about it at home and with a doctor’s help.
Intertrigo is a reddish rash that appears in skin folds, where your skin surfaces rub against each other. The rash can be itchy or painful, but it’s not contagious.
Bacteria, fungus, and viruses can easily grow in this
The skin areas most often affected include your:
Friction from skin rubbing on skin, moisture, and higher temperature in flexural areas are the main factors in the development of intertrigo.
These areas are often moist, warm, and lack air exposure. This makes them perfect breeding areas for microorganisms. These bacteria or fungi worsen the rash and its symptoms.
Secondary intertrigo infections could include:
Candida (a yeast) is the fungus group that’s most commonly associated with intertrigo. About
Most people normally have some Candida albicans present on their skin, so the yeast can easily take advantage of skin breaks to proliferate. A Candida rash is very bright red and raw looking. It may have plaques, which are raised, scaly lesions. Papules and pustules (pimple-like bumps) may be present as well.
Bacteria associated with intertrigo include:
- Papillomaviridae (human papilloma virus or HPV)
- Retroviridae (HIV)
In some cases, intertrigo occurs as a side effect of chemotherapy treatment.
Intertrigo starts as redness or small bumps or spots in skin folds. The
The intertrigo often appears on both sides of the skin fold, almost like a mirror image. Infections are more likely to be unilateral and asymmetrical, while inflammatory disorders tend to be symmetrical, appearing, for example, under both arms or both breasts.
The reddish area can quickly become inflamed and raw. The skin may crack, bleed, ooze, and crust over. The surrounding area may become scaly.
If you have a secondary infection from bacteria, fungus, or a virus, the intertrigo becomes more inflamed and can develop a bad smell. Intertrigo with a secondary infection is often asymmetrical (not even or present on both sides).
You may have intertrigo in more than one skin area. Also, smaller skin fold areas, such as behind your ears, around your chin, or on your eyelids, can be affected.
Intertrigo symptoms often get worse when the area comes in contact with your bodily secretions, such as sweat, urine, or feces.
People with a weakened immune system or who are incontinent or immobile are more likely to have intertrigo. It’s also more common in hot and humid weather.
Treatment for intertrigo is usually a skin cream and a good home hygiene regimen to keep the area clean and dry. The type of topical drug depends on whether bacteria or yeast are involved. In more severe cases, you may need to take oral medication.
When intertrigo is inflammatory only, with no infection, treatment is straightforward: Keep the area clean and dry and follow some of the home remedy suggestions below.
There are also several solutions that may help to control intertrigo. A doctor
- triple paste with zinc oxide, aluminum acetate, and petrolatum
- petroleum jelly (Vaseline)
- talcum powder
If you have an infection with the intertrigo, the doctor will prescribe specific topical creams.
Your treatment for intertrigo will depend on the cause and the type of infection you have. We’ll go over bacterial and yeast infections below.
In extreme cases, some women have undergone
Keep it clean and dry
The number one rule is to keep the area clean and dry.
If you exercise, shower afterward and pat yourself dry. Don’t rub your skin, as this can cause increased irritation and damage to the skin.
Use anti-chafing or barrier gels
If the intertrigo is inflammatory only, without an infection, use over-the-counter (OTC) creams to create a barrier between the skin folds. Creams or ointments with zinc oxide or petrolatum can be useful. There are also anti-chafing balms that come in stick form.
Block the sweat
Use a mild antiperspirant to stop sweating, including under your breasts.
OTC antifungal creams
If you have a fungal infection, try using use an OTC antifungal cream on the affected area for
Create a physical barrier
Depending on the affected area, use a thin cotton or gauze barrier to separate the skin folds.
Wear loose clothing and breathable fabrics
Wear loose cotton clothing next to your skin and avoid synthetic materials that can be irritating.
Topical antifungals used for intertrigo are nystatin (for Candida) and azole drugs, including miconazole (Mitrazol), ketoconazole (Nizoral topical), or clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF cream).
You usually use the cream
If your rash is very itchy, the doctor may also prescribe an antifungal combined with a low dose corticosteroid.
Depending on the severity of the infection, a doctor may prescribe a systemic antifungal drug that you’d take by mouth.
Topical antibiotics are used for bacterial infections. These include bacitracin or mupirocin (Bactroban).
If the infection is more severe, the doctor may prescribe an
The doctor may also prescribe a low potency corticosteroid and advise you to use an antibiotic soap.
Intertrigo in babies requires special care because the affected skin area is so delicate. Keep the area clean, wash it gently with mild soap, and pat it dry.
Use an absorbent diaper and wrap it loosely. Consider changing diapers on a schedule to decrease the amount of time your baby is in a wet diaper. OTC creams, such as those with zinc oxide or petrolatum, may be useful.
If the diaper rash looks infected or doesn’t go away in a few days, see a doctor.
If you or your child have a skin rash that doesn’t go away or rapidly gets worse, it’s important to see a doctor. Skin rashes can have many causes and the treatment is often very specific. You should also see a doctor if the rash isn’t getting better with treatment.
Red rashes can have many different causes. The doctor will want to rule out other possibilities, such as psoriasis or allergic reactions.
If they suspect it’s intertrigo and infection, they’ll likely test for a fungal, bacterial, or viral cause. A doctor may take a skin scraping or swab of the rash to send to a lab for a culture. They may also look at it under a microscope or special lamp.
Few scientific studies of intertrigo have measured what preventive care works and what doesn’t. But there are measures you can take that may work for you:
- Keep the skin area clean, dry, and aerated.
- Maintain a skin care routine of cleaning, moisturizing, and applying a skin barrier to protect the area.
- Use fragrance-free soaps and other skin products to minimize irritation.
- Use a powder, such as Zeasorb AF, on the area once or twice a day.
- Minimize exposure to sweat, urine, or feces. If you’re incontinent, use special products to absorb moisture.
- Use a dehumidifier if you live in humid conditions.
- Use an air conditioner to avoid being in high heat.
- If you have diabetes, keep it under control.
- Shower after exercise and dry off completely before dressing.
- Don’t wear tight clothing or shoes that can constrict the affected area. If your toes are affected, wear open-toe shoes.
- Wear loose clothing and breathable fabrics such as cotton.
Intertrigo doesn’t usually cause any complications, but it can lead to more serious infections if it isn’t treated properly.
Bacterial intertrigo can
Fungal intertrigo can lead to a more serious infection such as candidemia, a condition in which the yeast infection spreads through the bloodstream. Candidemia can be
Intertrigo can also worsen other skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.
Anyone can get intertrigo, but some conditions can increase your risk. You’re more at risk if:
- you have a weakened immune system
- you have excess skin
- you have diabetes
- you have poor hygiene habits
- you’re immobile
- you’re incontinent
- you wear a splint, brace, or an artificial limb that rubs your skin
- you live or work in high heat and humidity
- you sweat excessively (hyperhidrosis)
- your clothing or shoes are too tight
- you have an inflammatory skin condition
Infants are also at a
Below are some frequently asked questions about intertrigo.
Does poor hygiene cause intertrigo?
Poor hygiene can cause or worsen intertrigo, but you can get intertrigo even if you practice good hygiene habits. It’s important to clean the affected area, but you also need to be careful not to irritate the skin.
What does intertrigo look like?
Intertrigo usually looks like a rash. The affected skin is usually red, inflamed, and moist. It can also be scaly, crusted, or have blisters. The rash often has well defined edges where it meets the surrounding skin.
Can tight clothing cause intertrigo?
Tight clothing can rub the skin and cause or worsen intertrigo. It’s best to wear loose fitting, breathable clothing made from natural fabrics, such as cotton.
Can I use over-the-counter (OTC) treatments for intertrigo?
OTC treatments, such as barrier creams and powders, can help treat intertrigo. But if the rash doesn’t go away after a week or two, or if it gets worse, you should see a doctor. You should also see a doctor if you have any symptoms of a skin infection, such as redness, swelling, pain, pus, or fever.
Intertrigo is a common and treatable condition. People with intertrigo who are otherwise healthy have a good outlook. If a secondary infection is involved, it’s important to treat the cause until the symptoms are gone.
In some cases, intertrigo can become chronic. Maintaining a good skin cleaning and moisturizing routine can help prevent intertrigo from coming back. Talk with a doctor if you have questions about your skin or if the rash doesn’t go away with self-care.