I got a comment, a question, really, in a recent entry in which I touted the benefits of using creams containing urea.
What would you recommend for dry, red, itchy skin? The dry winter weather is making my toes very itchy.
The first thing everybody needs to know is that I am not a doctor (well, at least not that kind of doctor . . .). So anything I say here should be taken with a shaker of salt.
A real doctor generally has a lot of experience looking at these sorts of things, and can tell if it is an infection, or some sort of psoriasis, or whether it is bacterial or fungal. Not only that, in this case I just have a description, not even a picture. So, as I said, shaker of salt.
I’m also going to assume that it’s just not dry winter skin that would be fixed with one of those foot creams—I’m assuming Adam already considered that. I’ll also assume it is not from road chemicals for melting snow or ice. Foot creams (particularly the oilier ones) might also help keep those off the skin.
But here’s some thoughts. Caveat emptor.
Actually, red itchy skin, particularly around the toes, sounds like classic Athlete’s foot. Now, a barefooter ought not be seeing that, because Athlete’s foot really needs the dark, warm, moist environment inside of a shoe. As we’ve noted before, Athlete’s foot is really a shod disease—it is virtually unknown among barefooted populations. It tends to be around the toes because that area stays the most moist.
While I say a barefooter ought not be seeing that, I realize that this is the time of year when folks are less likely to go barefoot, and Adam may be shod a fair bit now. There might be pressures at work that require shoe-wearing, or the temperatures (and his comfort level) may require footwear. So, it is possible that that is what this is. In that case, the usual recommendation applies: go barefoot more (or light airy socks if your feet are cold) and application of an anti-fungal for Athlete’s foot.
Coming from the other direction, if Adam is going out barefoot in the cold a lot (and hasn’t done it a lot in the past), they might be chilblains. As Wikipedia says, chilblains is
a medical condition that is often confused with frostbite and trench foot. Chilblains are a tissue injury that occurs when a predisposed individual is exposed to cold and humidity. The cold exposure damages capillary beds in the skin, which in turn can cause redness, itching, blisters, and inflammation.
One thing to do about this is to keep you feet warmer and not overdo the barefooting.
When I first started pushing my limits one year, I got it a couple of times. What I did was to fairly deeply massage my toes. I figured that if there was tissue damage, I wanted the repaired tissue to have more robust capillaries so that they could keep more warm blood in the area. And I figured that the massage would prompt a more thorough healing (even if causing at the time a bit more damage).
Note: I can just hear real doctors screaming in agony at this point. He did what???
All I can say is that the following year, and all subsequent years, I’ve not had a problem with chilblains. Anyways, once again, shaker of salt.
If it’s not one of the above, my next favorite remedy would be a hydrocortisone cream. That often seems to help with various skin conditions, regardless of whether it is on the feet or not. I’ll sometimes try that for a few days to see if it makes any difference.
But I also wouldn’t go too far on any of the above. If it gets worse, or persists, the wise thing to do is to see a doctor. As I’ve said, they have the experience (and the actual presence) to give a good diagnosis and remedy.