Don’t Scratch My Back

Why I won’t scratch yours.

By Kevin RR Williams

HEALTH "Do me a favor." Cautiously, I respond, "What?" "Scratch my back," my wife replies. Invariably, she complains that I'm a terrible back scratcher. It's true. With my blunt fingertips, I just delicately stroke her back like a puppy pawing a door to get outside. I fear damage to her smooth, blemish-free skin. My flesh, on the other hand (and leg and back), is marred by scars. People might easily assume that some scratches are the result of recent trauma but many have been there since childhood. After scratching an itch, it looks like a tiger mauled me. Even needle marks from routine clinical blood draws leave tracks like a junkie. If I diligently rub cocoa butter daily into fresh wounds, they heal much better. But honestly, when you bruise so easily, you lose the desire to nurse every blemish. Perhaps the scars make me look tougher.

Koebner's Phenomenon describes a condtion where slight trauma on healthy skin causes similar lesions to develop near the site of trauma.

Skin Writing

Despite the propensity for scaring, my skin is not nearly as sensitive as the 5 percent of the population with dermatographic urticaria. Dermographism, as it's also called, is an allergic condition that causes the skin to welt when lightly scratched or sometimes when slapped or perhaps pressed. Often there is little or no pain associated with the raised skin. Though some (quite easily) blush with embarrassment by this hypersensitivity, other dermatographic urticaria patients don't consider their condition a disease. Rather, it's a novel characteristic, preferred over more traditional forms of urticaria. Ariana Page Russell, even even raises her skin to an art form. After pressing patterns in her skin, she photographs her fleshy canvas before the creation vanishes and sells the prints online and through galleries. Her art transcends dermographia. She "creates images that explore the skin as a document of human experience." [1]

Awkward Social Encounters


People with dermographism (literally, skin writing) can be mistaken for victims of spousal abuse. Fortunately for children, the condition is more likely to manifest itself between the ages of 20 and 30. Otherwise there might be more adults arguing to get their children back from Child Protective Services.

dermatographic urtica patients may naturally shy away from smothering embraces, firm handshakes or physical contact sports. Like fashion models, they need to resist the urge to scratch, which means they must suppress itching. Urticaria is a histamine reaction. Hence, over-the-counter antihistamines like Claratin keep irritations at bay to prevent aggressive scratching that may easily break the hypersensitive skin. Allergists or dermatologists might prescribe stronger medications. There are a few reported cases of antihistamine-resistant dermographia, causing patients to seek alternative remedies.

Homeopathic Remedies and Cures?

There is no cure for dermographism. Chamomile, wild oregano and green tea have been shown to have an antihistamine effect. Nutritionists suggest herbs such as horsetail, valerian, St. Johns wort, lemon balm and peppermint to help relieve the inflammation and pain caused by hives. [2] Vitamin C and B12 may reduce frequency of attacks. Aloe vera gel can sooth burning and itching. Drinking adequate amounts of water is one of the simplest and important things that can be done to revitalize skin.

Though not symptomatic of dermographism, my own skin hypersensitivity gives me compassion for those with urticaria. What's your healthy skin routine?

Click any image for larger version. Then click left or right to advance through them. Tags: dilated capillaries, immune system response, relief

  1. Home page. ^
  2. Hives - Alternative & Natural Health Guide. ^