What Is ‘Hell’s Itch’? Thousands of People Are Experiencing This Mysterious, ‘Horrendous’ Skin Condition
Thousands of people have taken to Reddit describing symptoms of a condition aptly referred to as "Hell's Itch."
One Reddit user called their symptoms "the worst thing I have ever experienced," adding, "I don't know if I would genuinely wish this upon my worst enemy."
So, what's causing all this discomfort? You can thank the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Read on to find out more about Hell's Itch.
What Is Hell's Itch?
According to Healthline, Hell's Itch is an extremely uncomfortable response to an intense sunburn that affects 5 to 10 percent of people.
"It is described as a maddening, uncontrollable itch of the affected skin. Some have described it as deep sandpaper rubbing on the skin or severe pins and needles," dermatologist David J. Leffell, MD, section chief of the Dermatologic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology Programs at Yale Medicine, explained.
While a painful sunburn is bad enough, one Reddit users described Hell's Itch as "considerably uncomfortable, a horrendous needle-throughout-my-back situation."
What Are the Symptoms of Hell's Itch?
Hell's Itch symptoms typically appear 24 to 72 hours after extreme sun exposure and most commonly affect the shoulders and back where adequate SPF was not applied.
While itchiness and peeling skin are not uncommon symptoms of sunburn, Hell's Itch is coupled with deep, throbbing pain.
Some Reddit users described their symptoms as feeling like "if fire ants are crawling [on] and biting" the affected area.
How to Treat Hell's Itch:
According to Dr. Leffell, Hell's Itch is under-researched and poorly understood. There is currently no "cure" or "treatment" for the condition.
"The condition is self-limited but does resolve on its own," he shared. "The key is getting through the couple of days of potentially severe discomfort."
Leffell advised anyone experiencing Hell's Itch to contact their doctor for prescribed medications such as a prescription-strength steroid cream. Sufferers can take ibuprofen or aspirin to try and ease their pain.
According to Healthline, other at-home remedies include:
- Taking antihistamine medication
- Applying topical steroid cream
- Soaking in a lukewarm oatmeal bath
However, beware of aloe vera. Some Reddit users reported using aloe vera reduced their redness but worsened the burning and itching sensation.
Avoiding hot showers and creams with unknown herbal components is also recommended.
How to Prevent Hell's Itch:
To prevent Hell's Itch, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 when outdoors. Make sure your sunscreen is waterproof and reapply during extended hours of activity.
Consider sun-protective clothing to reduce exposure to the sun's harmful rays — and never underestimate a cloudy day.