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  5. Skin Infections: Types, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Did you notice a sudden eruption on your skin? Is the rash on your forearm itchy and inflamed? If yes, then chances are that you are experiencing a skin infection which may need medical attention and preventive measures.

Let us understand the causes, types, and symptoms of skin infections, and how to treat and prevent them using home remedies and Ayurvedic herbs. Read on.

What Is A Skin Infection?

A skin infection materializes when bacteria, fungi, or parasites enter the skin’s surface and spread to the surrounding skin. In this event, the infection may cause swelling, inflammation, pain, discolouration, and various forms of discomfort. It may either be a harmless or serious case.

A skin infection may also occur when your immune response and system are suppressed [1] due to an ongoing medical treatment or some other underlying ailment. A few skin infections may infect a small section on the outer surface of the skin. Other skin infections may spread to a larger section or penetrate deep into the innermost layers of the skin.

Skin infections are not the same like rashes, wherein the affected skin becomes irritated or swollen. Even though rashes may be a sign of skin infection, it is not necessary that an individual with a rash will also experience a skin infection.

A few types of skin infections may spread from your skin into your bloodstream. These may even turn into life-threatening cases, if not immediately diagnosed and treated.

What Does A Skin Infection Look Like?

skin diseases dermatology vector illustration

Most skin infections appear as a swollen bump with discoloured skin. It may also be pus filled. The associated symptoms may include redness, itching, inflammation, and rash-like appearance.

A cut or break in your skin, caused from a surgery or injury, creates an opening for microbes and impurities to enter into your skin, leading to a skin infection. However, it can be quite difficult to correctly identify the difference between eczema and any other skin infection.

Causes & Types Of Skin Infections

Fungi, bacteria, and viruses may cause skin infections. The primary cause of any skin infection is determined by the type of infection [2]. Skin infections can be of four types.

1. Bacterial Skin Infection

contagious bacterial dermatologic infection on skin

Bacteria are living microorganisms which surround you. Most species of bacteria are quite harmless and even beneficial for your health. Bacterial infections occur when a harmful bacterial species gets inside your body via an injury or wound in your skin.

It is not necessary that you will manifest a skin infection just by getting a scratch or cut in your skin. However, it does make you more susceptible if you already have a suppressed immune system. A weakened or compromised immune system may happen due to a side effect of ongoing medication, or an underlying illness.

Bacterial skin infections usually appear as red, raised, small bumps in your skin which slowly get bigger in size. A few bacterial infections are mild, and can be easily managed and treated with topical antibiotics. However, a severe bacterial skin infection may require administration of oral antibiotics.

A few types of bacterial skin infections are:

  • Leprosy
  • Boils
  • Impetigo
  • Cellulitis

2. Viral Skin Infection

skin rashes and blisters on body

Viruses are tiny microorganisms which grow and develop only inside other living beings. As the name suggests, viral skin infections happen when a viral particle penetrates into your skin. Viral infections may vary from mild to severe cases.

The predominant viruses responsible for infections in the human body belong to the following three groups: herpes virus, human papillomavirus, and poxvirus.

A few types of viral skin infections are:

  • Hand, foot, and mouth disease
  • Measles
  • Warts
  • Molluscum contagiosum
  • Chickenpox
  • Shingles (herpes zoster)

3. Fungal Skin Infection

ringworm infection on skin

Your lifestyle choices and unique body chemistry may make you susceptible to developing a fungal infection. Fungi usually derive their nutrition from other living beings. Fungal skin infections occur when a fungal species begins to grow and develop in the warm, moist areas of your body, like your armpit or feet.

So, if you are an athlete, runner, or tend to sweat excessively, for example, you may experience several events of athlete’s foot. Fungi mostly grows and develops in humid and warm environments. A small cut or break in the skin may allow a fungal species to enter into the innermost layers of your skin.

A few fungal skin infections may not be contagious in nature. These fungal infections are mild and non-threatening.

A few types of fungal skin infections are:

  • Diaper rash
  • Oral thrush
  • Ringworm
  • Yeast infection
  • Athlete’s foot

4. Parasitic Skin Infection

lyme disease on skin

Parasitic skin infection occurs due to a parasitic infestation. Tiny bugs, organisms, or insects nesting beneath your layer of skin may lead to a parasitic skin infection.

This type of skin infection may spread from the affected skin to the organs and bloodstream. Also, these skin infections aren’t life-threatening, but can cause discomfort in the affected individual.

A few types of parasitic skin infections are:

  • Cutaneous larva migrans
  • Lyme disease [3]
  • Scabies
  • Bedbugs
  • Lice

Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix says that most skin infections are opportunistic. “Certain mites, bacteria and fungi naturally colonize on skin, in a symbiotic relationship. They help us maintain skin health and in return they feed on dead skin and sebum. A change in the skin environment triggered by pollution, chemicals, hormones or diet may trigger infective growth of these organisms.”

Symptoms Of Skin Infections

The primary duty of your skin is to shield and protect your internal organs and systems from any form of infection. In case your skin becomes infected, you may opt for an over-the-counter ointment or medicine based on the type of infection. But other skin infections may need immediate medical attention and treatment.

Please visit a knowledgeable physician if you begin to observe any of these signs and symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Warmth
  • Swelling
  • Sudden eruption on mucosal surfaces
  • Ulcers or skin breakdown
  • Blisters
  • Sores
  • Yellow-coloured crust
  • Darkening or redness in affected skin
  • Pus or fluid discharge
  • Fever

How Are Skin Infections Treated?

The treatment of any skin infection depends on the severity and type of infection. A few skin infections resolve and disappear without any medical treatment. In cases which require medical attention, you may be asked to apply a lotion, cream, or ointment onto the affected skin. Various other treatments may involve a method to drain the pus and oral medications.

Treatments also involve home remedies, natural remedies, and Ayurvedic remedies which offer complete relief without causing any harmful side effects. These treatments involve natural herbs and ingredients which effectively manage and treat different types of skin infections.

A. Home Remedies For Skin Infections

1. Honey

Honey is a potent natural ingredient renowned for its numerous health and skin benefits. It has antibacterial properties which helps in treating and resolving skin infections from Staphylococcus aureus [4]. It alleviates the swelling and redness due to the skin infection.

Ingredients:

  • One tbsp of pure, raw honey

How To Use Honey:

  • Take pure, raw honey and apply it directly onto the affected skin with a cotton bud.
  • Leave it for 10-15 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water.
  • Repeat the steps 3-5 times a day to see a visible difference.

2. Turmeric

Turmeric has been widely used in traditional medicine for its antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.

Ingredients:

  • One tsp of pure honey
  • One tsp of turmeric

How To Use Turmeric:

  • Mix honey and turmeric in a mixing bowl to form a thick paste.
  • Apply the paste directly onto the affected skin.
  • Leave it for 10-15 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water.
  • Repeat the steps twice daily – once in the morning and before bedtime.

3. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera has antibacterial properties as it is a rich source of anthraquinones.

Ingredients:

  • A leaf of aloe vera

How To Use Aloe Vera:

  • Extract pure aloe vera gel from the leaf by slicing it into two halves.
  • Apply the gel onto the affected skin.
  • Leave it for 10 minutes before rinsing off with water.
  • Repeat the steps at least thrice a day for better results.

4. Ginger

Ginger is a well-known home remedy for numerous skin and health conditions. It is popularly used to treat fungal skin infections as it effectively inhibits the growth of fungus.

Ingredients:

  • One tsp of fresh ginger extract or paste

How To Use Ginger:

  • Apply the fresh ginger extract or paste onto the affected skin.
  • Leave it for 5-10 minutes before rinsing off with normal water.
  • Repeat the steps twice daily – once in the morning and before bedtime.

5. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil helps to treat and manage bacterial and viral skin infections as it contains high amounts of monolaurin.

Ingredients:

  • One tbsp of pure coconut oil

How To Use Coconut Oil:

  • Take the coconut oil in a bowl and apply it onto the affected skin.
  • Allow the nourishing oil to absorb within your skin.
  • Rinse it off with normal water after half an hour.
  • Repeat the step daily before bedtime so that it stays overnight. Rinse it off in the morning.

6. Baking Soda

Baking soda is one of the most common and popular home remedies for treating various skin, hair, and health conditions. Due to its anti-fungal [5] and anti-bacterial property, baking soda helps in inhibiting the growth and development of Streptococcus mutans.

Ingredients:

  • Half a tsp of baking soda
  • Water

How To Use Baking Soda:

  • Mix the baking soda with a few drops of water to form a thick paste.
  • Apply the paste onto the affected skin.
  • Leave it for 5-10 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water.
  • Repeat the steps 2-3 times daily for better results.

7. Lemon

Lemon has astringent, antibacterial, and antifungal properties which help treat a wide variety of skin infections.

Ingredients:

  • One tsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • One tsp of pure olive oil

How To Use Lemon:

  • Mix both the ingredients properly in a mixing bowl.
  • Apply the solution onto the affected skin.
  • Leave it for half an hour before rinsing off with lukewarm water.
  • Repeat the steps twice daily until the infection resolves.

8. Tomato

Tomatoes are a rich source of antioxidants and acids which impart antibacterial properties. These acids include succinic, tartaric, and citric acids.

Ingredients:

  • One ripe, fresh tomato

How To Use Tomato:

  • Blend the tomato in a blender to obtain a thin paste.
  • Apply the paste onto the affected skin.
  • Leave it for 10-15 minutes before rinsing off with normal water.
  • Repeat the step once a day until the infection resolves.

9. Sea Salt

The antibacterial and astringent properties of sea salt help in improving the skin’s barrier function.

Ingredients:

  • One cup of sea salt
  • One bucket of bathing water

How To Use Sea Salt:

  • Add one cup of sea salt in your bathing water and mix it properly before using.
  • Alternatively, you can add the sea salt directly in the bathtub.
  • Repeat the step once daily until the skin infection resolves.

10. Green Tea

Green tea is a powerhouse of tannins which help in treating a wide variety of fungal skin infections.

Ingredients:

  • Hot water
  • 5 tea bags of green tea

How To Use Green Tea:

  • Dip the tea bags in a pot of hot water and allow it to soak for a few minutes.
  • Apply the tea-steeped water onto the affected skin with a cotton bud or swab.
  • Leave it for 5-10 minutes before rinsing off with normal water.
  • Repeat the steps twice a day for better results.

B. Ayurvedic Remedies For Skin Infections

According to the holistic and ancient Ayurvedic science, any imbalance in the three doshas, namely kapha, pitta, and vata, may lead to the occurrence of skin disorders. An imbalance in doshas may happen due to your lifestyle choices and dietary habits.

  • Vata skin type leads to extreme skin dryness with uneven and rough texture. It may also lead to the appearance of fissures and deep cracks in the surface of the skin.
  • Pitta skin type may lead to ulceration, pus formation, persistent pain, burning sensation, redness, and fever.
  • Kapha skin type may lead to water retention, bumps, swelling, scratchy skin, and white discolouration.

In Ayurveda, treating and resolving skin disorders and infections needs a multi-faceted approach. As per the ancient Ayurvedic scriptures, dietary changes are recommended to pacify an aggravated dosha. A healthy, clean and nutritious diet helps improve the digestive system and fire. This results in reducing and expelling the accumulated ama (toxins) from your system, which may cause further harm to the skin.

A personalized skincare routine involving natural, mild, and herbal ingredients along with regular yoga and physical exercises helps manage and protect your skin’s health.

1. Ayurvedic Supplements

Ayurveda offers a multitude of natural supplements for glowing, blemish-free skin. Some of the notable ayurvedic supplements include:

A. Mahatiktaka Ghrita

This ayurvedic medicine is formulated with medicated ghee. It helps in treating and managing chronic ulcer, leprosy, syphilis, and eczema.

B. Kumkumadi Oil

A potent ayurvedic oil, kumkumadi oil is widely used in skincare products to enhance your natural skin complexion. It is extensively used in treating and managing acne breakouts and scar marks. It also helps in relieving itching.

C. Nimbadi Kwath

This beneficial Ayurvedic supplement has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Additionally, it helps in improving your skin complexion and health. Due to its anti-inflammatory property, it helps in alleviating inflammation and swelling in the skin.

D. Nalpamaradi Keram

This Ayurvedic oil is extracted from the fig trees. It helps in improving your skin health, texture, and complexion. Additionally, it helps in treating and managing various skin disorders. It is widely used in treating severe itching, scabies, and eczema.

2. Panchakarma

In Ayurveda, panchakarma is extensively performed in treating and resolving various ailments and disorders of the skin, hair, and body [6]. It involves the following treatments for skin infections:

  • Udvartana
  • Basti
  • Swedan
  • Vaman
  • Virechan
  • Lepa

3. Ayurvedic Herbs

The Ayurvedic way of managing skin infections and disorders include herbal ingredients which are highly potent and effective in resolving a skin infection. A few of the most popular Ayurvedic herbs include:

A. Manjistha

Scientific Name: Rubia cordifolia

A well-known Ayurvedic herb, manjistha helps in treating and managing dark spots, acne breakouts, psoriasis, and eczema. It helps in improving the skin complexion, texture, and health.

B. Kumkuma

Scientific Name: Crocus sativus

Also popularly known as saffron, kumkuma greatly enhances the skin tone and complexion. It also helps in pacifying all the three doshas. Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it is used in treating various skin disorders. It is also used in managing acne breakouts.

C. Vidpala

Scientific Name: Wrightia tinctoria

Also popularly known as kutaja, vidpala is one of the potent traditional medicines which help treat and manage dermatitis and psoriasis.

D. Nyagrodha

Scientific Name: Ficus benghalensis

Derivatives from the fig tree are powerful anti-inflammatory agents which help in resolving skin disorders. Additionally, it helps manage and pacify pitta and kapha dosha.

E. Ashwatha

Scientific Name: Ficus religiosa

Also known as peepal tree in Hindi, ashwatha is a traditional medicine helpful in treating and resolving skin infections.

F. Raktachandana

Scientific Name: Pterocarpus santalinus

Commonly known as sandalwood, this traditional herb helps in treating and managing acne breakouts and other skin disorders.

G. Haridra

Scientific Name: Curcuma longa

Commonly known as turmeric, it is a potent herb in Ayurvedic medicine. It is extensively used in treating various skin disorders and infections. Haridra helps in expelling toxins from the skin and improves the skin complexion and health.

H. Keram

Scientific Name: Cocos nucifera

Coconut oil is widely used as a base or carrier oil to prepare medicated oils, which help in treating and managing skin disorders. It helps in alleviating itching and inflammation of the skin. Additionally, it acts as a natural emollient and moisturizer, which prevents dryness of the skin and protects it.

I. Sariba

Scientific Name: Hemidesmus indicus

This traditional herb helps alleviate burning sensation in the affected skin. It also helps pacify all the three doshas. Additionally, it purifies the blood and minimizes the accumulation of toxins that cause several skin disorders.

Vedix Tip: It is advisable to always seek expert advice from a knowledgeable Ayurvedic physician before undergoing any Ayurvedic therapy or treatment as they can correctly guide you while treating, managing and resolving your skin condition.

C. Natural Remedies For Skin Infections

There are few natural remedies to effectively manage skin infections at home. These natural methods include:

1. Hot Water Compress

Heat helps in improving blood circulation in the skin. It also helps in opening up the skin pores which allows the affected site to resist the infection.

How To Use Hot Water Compress:

  • Soak a cotton washcloth or muslin cloth in a bowl of hot water.
  • Squeeze the excess water out and gently dab onto the affected skin.
  • Hold the damp washcloth over the affected skin.
  • Repeat the steps in a few hours to see better results.

2. Topical Ointment

Topical ointments which are easily available in medical stores contain antibacterial and soothing properties. This helps in managing the skin infection as well as alleviating itching or inflammation in the skin.

How To Use Topical Ointment:

  • Cleanse the affected skin with a mild soap and lukewarm water.
  • Apply a thin layer of the topical ointment.
  • Repeat the steps at least 2-3 times daily for better results.

D. Medical Treatments For Skin Infections

Your physician will diagnose whether you have a skin infection or not by conducting a physical examination and enquiring about the signs and symptoms.

  • Antibiotics are required to treat and manage cellulitis.
  • Your physician will have to drain the accumulated pus in case you have a skin abscess. After the drainage of pus, antibiotics may be recommended by your physician.

Important Note:

When you take an antibiotic course, it may cause mild to severe side effects such as rashes, diarrhoea, antibiotic-resistant infections, etc. It is advisable to consult your physician if you experience any such side effects during the course of antibiotics.

How To Prevent Skin Infections?

washing hands with soap

If you are experiencing any type of skin infection, then practicing a few simple yet effective preventive measures can help. You will be able to not only manage the symptoms but also the spread of the infection. A few such preventive measures which you can follow are:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Always keep your hands clean and germ-free, especially if you have been outside your home.
  • Shower and bath immediately after using any spa or gym facility.
  • Avoid any type of bug or insect bites.
  • Never share your personal items like your towels, razors, or toothbrushes with others.
  • Avoid waxing, shaving, and tattooing while traveling.
  • If you already have an existing skin condition such as psoriasis or eczema, then ask your physician or ayurvedic physician about ways to manage your skin condition while traveling.
  • If you have a scrape, cut, or abrasion, clean it immediately with soap and water. Cover and protect it with a band-aid.
  • Use wet wipes and sanitizers when you don’t have access to a handwashing area.
  • Avoid and minimize consumption of alcohol and smoking.
  • Avoid scratching and touching the infected areas.
  • Avoid extreme exposure to sunlight.
  • Always wear loose, comfortable, soft fabrics like cotton and muslin.

How Is A Skin Infection Diagnosed?

A skin infection is diagnosed when your physician will enquire about the associated symptoms followed by a physical examination. They may even suggest lab tests like blood tests and skin culture.

A skin culture helps to correctly identify the type of skin infection you may have, by using a sample of your skin cells. Your physician may take your skin sample by scraping or swabbing your affected skin. They may even extract a small section of the affected skin, which is known as biopsy.

Who Is At Risk For Skin Infections?

You will be easily susceptible to experiencing a skin infection if you:

  • Have too many skinfolds, which occurs when you are heavy or obese
  • Are malnourished
  • Stay in the same position at a stretch, in case of illness, paralysis or if you have been advised bed rest
  • Have a compromised and suppressed immune system due to ongoing medications or chemotherapy, which affects your immune system
  • Have an autoimmune disorder
  • Are older
  • Have persistent issues with circulation
  • Have diabetes

The Last Word

There are numerous ways to minimize the risk of developing a skin infection. One of the most effective preventive measures is to frequently wash your hands with soap and water. If you are outside, then try and use wet wipes or a hand sanitizer.

Skin infections may vary from mild to severe cases. Always consult a physician if you have tried using home and natural remedies to treat and manage your skin infection.

Know Your Dosha Now

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