Why am I so itchy!
August 18, 2015 1:26 AM   Subscribe

Over the last week, I have developed a really itchy rash on my elbows, upper arms (underside), and back of calves. Any ideas what could be causing it?

Relevant info:

a) I have no other symptoms.

b) I have been getting allergy injections for 3 years, very successfully. I am pretty allergic to pollen, cats, shellfish, dust mites, latex, etc.

c) I have recently begun a regimen of herbal supplements, but have ceased for the last 48 hours. The internet tells me that a rash is the side effect of any one of these supplements. (Or any other medicine, btw.) I have not changed soap or shampoo recently.

d) I have just been promoted to a new job with a new office in an old building. It was layered in dust and mouse droppings. I spent the better part of three afternoons cleaning it. The rash has roughly coincided with this event. (However, my reading of mouse feces and urine suggests that this is not the culprit, since it's the only symptom I have.)

e) My wife has no symptoms.

f) It is not spreading on my body, and it is located in a couple of weird spots that would not have made contact with allergens. In particular, the back of upper arm and back of calf has touched nothing that I can think of.

g) In 5 days, it has not abated. It has also not gotten worse or moved.
posted by antipode12 to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My first thought, according to the areas affected, would be the chair that you sit in.
posted by shazzam! at 3:00 AM on August 18, 2015 [6 favorites]

posted by Thorzdad at 4:00 AM on August 18, 2015

I bet that desk chair is full of dust, if the office space was that dirty.
posted by heathrowga at 5:06 AM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Shingles is on one side of the body only, and is usually painful.
I am thirding getting rid of the office chair.
posted by flourpot at 5:34 AM on August 18, 2015

Sweat allergy?
posted by cecic at 6:04 AM on August 18, 2015

Do you have a rash with the itching? If so, it really sounds to me like eczema, which I only started getting as an adult and which for me always starts on my arms. It's apparently more common in people who have allergies, and can come and go, with outbreaks occurring in response to a trigger of some kind. You can get corticosteroid or other kinds of topical treatments by prescription, or you can try using some OTC 1% hydrocortisone plus lots of moisturizing lotion and see if that helps.

My sympathy--if it is eczema, it's certainly treatable but is likely to recur, and is amazingly annoying when it's around.
posted by Kat Allison at 7:00 AM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Eczema would be my guess, as mine starts on the arms.

But it could just be Heat/sweat rash or just irritation from sweating. My husband is a programmer & lots of sitting in summer gives him rashes in weird places. Arms from leaning on desk & back of knees.
posted by wwax at 7:22 AM on August 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. To clarify about the office and the chair -- I have yet to move into it -- I have only been cleaning, so no sitting in the chair yet (except for a few minutes here or there.) For the record, the chair is (p)leather and plastic arms -- and was given a solid double clorox cleaning (because the woman in the office before was disgusting!)

Kat Allison, yes, it is damn itchy.

To all thinking sweat allergy... I *was* sweating like a beast on those cleaning days (one in shorts).

FWIW, I started a course of Prednisone this morning and the rash is responding. (Obviously, I'm still concerned for the future in that office...)
posted by antipode12 at 9:17 AM on August 18, 2015

Elbows and back of the knees are classic spots for eczema to show up.

The pleather could be allowing sweat to build up on skin and not air out. Sweat-drenched skin for long periods of time is what jump starts my eczema.
posted by blueberrypuffin at 9:41 AM on August 18, 2015

Seconding either eczema or sweat allergy/heat hives. I have recurring eczema and recently developed heat hives for little apparent reason. It cleared up after 2-3 weeks of daily oral antihistamines, so if you aren't already taking that I'd give it a try. Allergy shots don't work for heat hives, AFAIK. If the culprit is eczema, it should respond to topical cortisteroids which any dermatologist will prescribe you, and is probably safer for recurring use than prednisone.
posted by serelliya at 10:47 AM on August 18, 2015

I get rashes when it's really hot. Inner arm but not quite armpit, backs of knees, sometimes upper thighs. I don't know if it's a sweat allergy or what, but application of dry powders (baby powder) or the anti-chafe Bodyglide stuff from sports stores does help somewhat for making it less irritating. But mostly it helps to be lazy in the air-conditioning, or at least I'm telling myself that it's therapeutic...
posted by aimedwander at 10:48 AM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

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