Itchy Armpits: 12 Causes, Treatments and Prevention Tips

Itchy Armpits

The armpit region contains sweat glands, lymph nodes, and blood vessels. These factors make the armpit one of the dampest areas of the body, prone to itching. Itchy armpits is irritating and can present itself as a disruptive condition.

If you wonder “why do my armpits itch,” one of the reasons for it may be an armpit rash. This article addresses some more causes of an itchy armpit, the common symptoms, treatments, home remedies, and some prevention tips.


Symptoms of Itchy Armpits

Some common symptoms that come along with itchy armpits include bumps, crusting, flaking, rash, and swelling. Skin color changes can also occur. In some cases, there is tenderness, which comes with pain or soreness.

Depending on what is causing the itchiness, itchy armpit symptoms can be accompanied by a headache, cough, runny nose, sore throat, chills, fever, and joint pain or stiffness.


Causes of Itchy Armpits

The most common causes of armpit itch are mentioned below:

1. Lack of Hygiene

The armpit is a warm, damp area of the body which is favorable for the growth of bacteria. Lack of cleanliness will cause bacteria to grow exponentially, which will lead to itchiness.

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2. Dermatitis

Dermatitis may result if you are allergic to poison ivy, laundry detergents, household chemicals, and some types of soap. Other triggers of dermatitis are an overproduction of oil and extreme dryness and cracking (usually in winter).

Dermatitis causes inflammation and redness of the skin. Some of the symptoms include blisters, itching, redness, scaling, tenderness, and warmth.

3. Improper Shaving

Improper shaving methods such as using a dull razor, dry shaving, or shaving too often can lead to itchy armpits. Aside from itchy armpits, improper shaving also produces bumps under the skin.

4. Ingrown Hair

Individuals are at risk of an ingrown hair in the armpit area due to shaving. An ingrown hair is a broken hair strand bent sideways. The sideways angle causes the hair to grow back into the skin.

5. Deodorant

A reaction to a particular deodorant is similar to an allergy. Deodorants can cause sweat glands to get clogged, trigger dermatitis reactions, or skin irritation.

6. Candida Infection

Candida infection is a type of yeast infection caused by Candida. It is common within the body, but immune system can handle it.

An infection occurs if the immune system is weak which leads to overgrowth of this yeast. Candida infection is common in damp areas of the body like the armpit, groin, and mouth. The infection comes in the form of a red rash that is further irritated by tight clothing.

7. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition in which the skin becomes flaky, itchy, and red. These symptoms occur due to the rapid build-up of cells on the skin’s surface. Psoriasis can lead to itchy armpits, legs, back, and scalp.

8. Miliaria Rubra

Miliaria rubra is also known as a heat rash. Blocked sweat glands cause itchy armpits and red bumps. Individuals who are on bed rest or overexposed to heat are at risk of heat rashes.

9. Hidradenitis Suppurativa

This condition is also known as reverse pimple. It is called a reverse pimple because the hair follicles get blocked and inflamed. This process creates cysts and abscesses that form under the skin. It can leak pus even if there are no bacteria present. An abscess can burst open, and it may not heal or take a long time to recover.

10. Swollen Lymph Nodes

The armpit area contains a plethora of lymph nodes. The lymph nodes can swell and cause irritation and itchiness when it’s trying to fight an infection.

11. Intertrigo

Intertrigo is a rash commonly found in skin folds. When this rash is present in the armpit, the skin becomes red and itchy. The skin may also crack and ooze a foul-smelling odor. It can turn into a bacterial or fungal infection if left untreated. Common causes of this rash are poor hygiene, obesity, and diabetes.

12. Hyperhidrosis

Hyperhidrosis is the scientific name for excessive sweating. Excessive sweating encourages the overgrowth of bacteria in underarms. The growth of bacteria causes itchiness and irritation. Causes of excessive sweating are obesity, using new drugs, exercise, and change in environment.


Itchy Armpits, No Rash: What does it Mean?

There are cases where itchy armpits do not accompany a rash. Common triggers for itchy armpits with no rash are mild allergies, excessive sweating (axillary hyperhidrosis), or lymphoma cancer. Cancer may lead to dry skin, fatigue, weight loss, fever, and swollen lymph nodes.

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Mild allergies are the most common causes of itchy armpits without a rash.  Treatments for rash caused by allergies include taking antihistamines, applying topical creams, avoiding deodorants, using medicated soap, and wearing loose-fitting, breathable clothes.


How to Treat Itchy Armpits?

The first step to treat itchy armpits is not to scratch it. Scratching puts the area at risk of skin breaking and contracting an infection. Other than that, there are few more ways to treat itchy armpits:

  • Stop Shaving: Stop shaving the area until the symptoms are gone.
  • Practice Good Hygiene: Wash the area regularly with soap and water.
  • Avoid Deodorant: If you see signs of irritation or dermatitis, stop the use of a deodorant or switched to a milder brand to see if that rectifies the issue. The type of deodorant that is less irritating is the roll-on type.
  • Hot Compress: If there is pus build-up, a hot compress can promote the drainage of fluid. Gently apply the hot compress to the armpit.

There are other treatments to try with doctor’s approval.

  • Pluck out ingrown hair with tweezers.
  • Manage heat rashes with appropriate ointments, such as hydrocortisone creams. Use oral or topical anti-fungal medications if Candida causes itchy armpits.
  • Lessen hidradenitis suppurativa with antibiotic creams. Extreme cases need surgery. Track down the trigger of dermatitis.

Home Remedies for Itchy Armpits

Besides the treatments mentioned in the last section, there are a few home remedies to try to alleviate symptoms of itchy armpits.

  • Colloidal Oatmeal: It helps ease irritation and itchiness. Add it to warm or cool water and apply it with the help of a washcloth on your armpits, for 20 minutes.
  • Cold Compress: Icepack, when applied to itchy armpits, provides relief. The cold temperature of this compress numbs and soothes itchy armpits.
  • Calamine Lotion: This remedy is used for decreasing itchiness. The first step before using this lotion is to clean your armpits. It is suggested to pair this lotion with an antihistamine.
  • Witch Hazel: Witch hazel has the same function like calamine lotion. Apply it using a cotton ball. Avoid using witch hazel if you have a rash, liquid oozing out, or redness.
  • Tea Tree Oil, Aloe Vera, and Vitamin E Oil: These treatments help alleviate and reduce inflammation.
  • Other Home Remedies: Eat foods rich in vitamin C. Use unscented, hypoallergenic washing detergents. Take baths or showers regularly. Apply baking soda to armpit to dry it.

How to Prevent Armpit Itch or Underarm Rash?

The best way to avoid itchy armpits is to practice good hygiene, which includes regular showers and air drying the area.

Another prevention method is to stop using products such as certain deodorants, which trigger the itchiness. If a rash or itchiness does not seem to have a cause, consult an allergist who could help determine the trigger.

Tight clothing made of synthetic material could prompt a rash because this type of material doesn’t absorb sweat. Loose cotton clothing is breathable and a better option for prevention.

When the weather is hot or wet, the rash or itchiness could be caused by heat. Rashes that are triggered by hot weather are called heat rashes. Stay in cool environments if heat is the cause.


When to See a Doctor?

Itchy armpits are minor symptom, and in rare cases, itchy armpits may get severe. Some signs that would warrant a doctor’s visit include the following:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Altered consciousness
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Joint pain
  • Stiffness, and swelling of the mouth or face

Immediate medical attention is needed if you notice any of these symptoms.

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Sources:
A. Schaefer, J. Tim, “How to Treat an Armpit Rash,” Healthline web site, June 28, 2016; http://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-an-armpit-rash#overview1.
“Itchy Armpits Causes, Shaving, Cancer, Pregnancy, Red & No Rash,” Healcure web site, http://www.healcure.org/armpit/itchy-armpits/itchy-armpits-causes-shaving-cancer-pregnancy-red-no-rash/, last accessed September 11, 2017.
Garikiparith, M., “Itchy Armpits (Itchy Underarms): Common Causes and Treatment Tips,” Belmarrahealth web site, April 15, 2016; http://www.belmarrahealth.com/itchy-armpits-itchy-underarms-causes-symptoms-treatments-and-home-remedies/.

Irene Entila

Irene Entila

Irene is a health and fitness consultant based out of Albuquerque, NM. She was a personal trainer during the years of 2010-2013. She holds a Bachelors of Liberal Arts with a focus on creative writing from The Evergreen State College. She obtained her personal trainer license through Seattle Central College in 2010. Irene has been an athlete since childhood. She currently train and compete in ultra-marathon running and jiu jitsu. She started health writing in 2009 as a hobby through her personal blog. She believes that people can seek help from a trainer or trained profession to reach fitness and health goals. Though, people can learn a lot about them and promote self-sufficiency if they had affordable resources. By 2010, Irene started contributing to several health websites while completing her personal trainer certification and training for marathons. She saw how certain health variables affected her training and wanted to share this information with the public. Since then, Irene has written various articles about health and fitness featured on different magazines.