Smooth. Soft. Supple. Youthful. Glowing. Even-toned. Those are some of the words that describe the ideal skin desired by most, if not all, of us. Rashes steal from that and make us concerned about our well-being. One such rash is Christmas tree rash. Here we explore the causes, treatment, and safe and effective home remedies for this skin condition.
What is Christmas Tree Rash and is it Contagious?
- 1 What is Christmas Tree Rash and is it Contagious?
- 2 Christmas Tree Rash Causes
- 3 Christmas Tree Rash Symptoms
- 4 Christmas Tree Rash Pictures
- 5 Christmas Tree Rash Treatment
- 6 Christmas Tree Rash Home Remedies
- 7 Homeopathic Remedies for Christmas Tree Rash
- 8 More Tips for Relief of Itching
- 9 References
From the name Christmas tree rash, one would be forgiven for imagining a skin rash caused by a reaction to Christmas tree. The term is however actually used to describe a common pink or gray skin rash that is shaped like Christmas tree.
For an allergy rash triggered by Christmas tree (pine or fir), the term Christmas tree syndrome is instead used.
At the onset of this skin problem, one large, circular or oval, raised patch referred to as “Herald patch” or mother patch appears on the back, chest, or abdomen and sometimes on the thigh or armpit. This patch can be up to 10 centimeters wide and is typically dry and scaly with a well-defined border which makes it easy to be confused for ringworm.
After a few days or weeks, a generalized skin rash that is characterized by many, smaller, flaky patches (daughter patches) shows up on the abdomen, chest, back, legs, and arms and sometimes, the neck. The face is rarely affected. The spots appearing on the back are often distributed vertically and configured at such an angle that their pattern resembles a Christmas tree.
According to the WebMD, Christmas tree rash doesn’t occur on the palms of the hands and sole of the feet. A rash on these areas is often an indication of a more serious condition and should be checked by a doctor immediately.
The rash can affect anyone at any age but it tends to occur more commonly in individuals between the age of 10 and 35 years. Pregnant women are also at higher risk. The rash typically spreads and then goes away in 4 to 8 weeks but it can last for up to 12 weeks.
According to the MedicineNet, you cannot get Christmas tree rash twice since you build a lifetime immunity after the first bout. The rash is also not contagious. In other words, it cannot be spread from one person to another.
Christmas Tree Rash Causes
Experts are yet to prove with certainty what causes Christmas tree rash but the clinical presentation of the virus and preliminary evidence suggest a viral infection and rules out the involvement of a fungus or bacteria as well as allergic reactions.
A study published in the journal of the American Academy of Dermatology concluded that the rash may be caused by Herpesviruses 6 and 7, the same viruses that cause infant roseola.
Christmas Tree Rash Symptoms
The symptoms of Christmas tree rash, or Pityriasis rosea, advance gradually in three stages but some people don’t the first one or two stages.
Most people with “Christmas tree disease” experience no symptoms before the actual rash appears. A small number of people, however, experience the following symptoms over a period of a few days to two weeks:
- Sore throat
- Decreased appetite
- Swollen glands
- Joint pain
The herald patch marks stage two of the Christmas tree disease as some people refer to this dermal condition. This is the first symptom for most people. The circular or oval patch is typically raised and scaly and spreads progressively over the course of a few days.
The actual color of the herald patch varies depending on the skin color. It is usually pink or reddish in light-skinned individuals and gray, brown or black in dark-skinned individuals.
The final stage of pityriasis rosea is marked by a generalized rash comprising of many small spots on the stomach, back, chest, arms, thighs, neck (sometimes), and in rare circumstances, the face.
The rash develops days to weeks after the herald patch shows up. It can continue spreading over the course of 2 to 6 weeks. The patches range in color from pink to red for people with light skin, to gray, dark brown, or black for people with dark skin.
The rash is the main symptom but mild itching affects as many as 50 percents of all cases of Christmas tree rash. According to the Laguna Skin Center, stress can make the itching more severe. Sweating due to hot weather, exercise, etc. can also make the itching worse and so can wearing tight clothing.
Christmas Tree Rash Pictures
The angled formation of the small patches associated with pityriasis rosea makes the rash look like a Christmas tree. Observe the photos below from patients with this skin problem and see if you can observe the Christmas tree shaped spots.
Christmas Tree Rash Treatment
The rash is benign (harmless) and heals in a few weeks’ time without treatment and without leaving scars on the affected areas of the skin. You may see a few light or dark areas on the skin after the rash heals but these too will go away after a couple months. You may, however, find the itching associated with the rash intolerable.
Christmas tree rash treatment hinges upon relieving the itching to make the patient more comfortable as the natural healing process takes its course. Commonly used treatments include:
- Antihistamines. Antihistamines such as Benadryl and chlorpheniramine are widely used to alleviate allergy-related symptoms such as itching. Although pityriasis rosea doesn’t involve an allergy, these medications are usually helpful for the itching associated with the rash. On the downside though, antihistamines will not shorten the healing period.
- Topical steroid creams. For unbearable itching, your doctor may as well prescribe a steroid (hydrocortisone) cream. Steroid creams, however, make the tone of the affected area of skin to take longer to normalize and match the other parts of the skin. Use the steroid cream as directed to prevent adverse side effects.
- Lotions and emollients. If Christmas tree rash itches, you may find applying a skin lotion or better still a thick emollients formulated to deeply moisturize and soothe the skin helpful.
- UVB Light therapy. Severe cases of itching that don’t respond to the above treatment options may benefit from a treatment referred to as Ultraviolet B light therapy. As the name suggests, it involves exposing the affected areas of skin to artificial sunlight. On the downside, however, light therapy can cause lasting dark spots in some areas of the skin.
- Antiviral medications. Although the viral infection and thus the rash goes away on its own, your doctor may prescribe Antiviral medications such as acyclovir (Zovirax) to fasten the healing process. These are best taken the earliest possible.
Christmas Tree Rash Home Remedies
There is currently no cure for Christmas tree disease, but you can control the itching and avoid worsening the problem using the following home remedies:
1. Oatmeal Bath
Oatmeal bath is a fantastic natural remedy for Christmas tree rash itching and mainstream medical practitioners and naturopaths alike agree to its effectiveness.
How to get rid of Christmas tree rash with an oatmeal bath? It is simple. Pour a cup of ground oatmeal into a tub of warm (never hot) water and lie in it for 15 to 20 minutes several times daily. Alternatively, use an over the counter oatmeal bath product such as Aveeno.
2. Baking Soda
Some people will also swear to the effectiveness of baking soda in relieving the itching due to pityriasis rosea.
- To a bathtub containing warm water, pour a cup of baking soda.
- Stir thoroughly until the baking soda is well blended.
- Lie in the bathtub for 15 to 20 minutes and you will notice a relief of the itching.
- Use this home remedy 2-3 times daily.
3. Neem Leaves
The natural skin soothing and healing properties of neem make it a great natural home remedy for not only acne but also pityriasis rosea. Below is how to use neem leaves to treat Christmas tree rash itching:
- To a basin of boiling water, add a bunch of neem leaves.
- Allow the water time to cool down, then transfer it to a bathtub.
- Sit in the bathtub for 20 minutes or so. If you don’t have a bathtub, you will find applying the water gently to the affected area of the skin with a clean towel helpful.
4. Calamine Lotion
Calamine lotion is another great home remedy for the treatment of itching due to pityriasis rosea. Calamine lotion is readily available over the counter in drugstores and online sites.
Apply it to the areas of the skin affected by the rash 2 to 3 times daily for relief from itching, preferably after a shower. Avoid rubbing the skin vigorously as you do it. It is also advisable to apply the lotion in the direction of hair growth.
5. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a powerful skin moisturizer and soother and can go a long way in getting rid of the mild to severe itching caused by Christmas tree disease.
- Pour a few drops of organic, cold pressed coconut oil to the palms of your hands.
- Massage your hands gently together to spread the oil
- Apply it gently to the back, chest, abdomen and any other affected area of the skin.
6. Aloe Vera
Aloe is also one of the safe, effective home remedies for Christmas tree rash. You can either get fresh juice from a freshly nipped aloe Vera lead or apply any good commercial aloe vera gel to the area of the skin affected by this skin problem.
Homeopathic Remedies for Christmas Tree Rash
Pityriasis rosea can benefit from various homeopathic remedies including Arsenicum, Radium bromide, and Natrum muriaticum. These are administered in 6c potency four times per day over the course of one week. Urtica urens ointment or cream is also popular among homeopathic practitioners.
More Tips for Relief of Itching
- Avoid overheating of the body by cutting down on exercises, wearing well-fitting clothing, and avoiding the use of hot water for showers and baths.
- Use soaps very minimally as soaps often contain irritants that can worsen itching. Dermatologists recommend using gentle soaps such as Dove, Cetaphil, and Basis until the rash heals. Soaps with natural moisturizers such as goat or camel milk are also helpful.
- Avoid woolen and synthetic fabrics until the rash goes away. These can worsen the itchiness.
- Avoid scratching the areas of the skin affected by the rash. Scratching is thought to make the itching worse, leading to an even higher urge to scratch.
- Laguna Skin Center: Pityriasis Rosea
- The journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: Evidence of human herpesvirus-6 and -7 reactivation in miscarrying women with pityriasis rosea