Intertrigo – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

First, intertrigo is quite common, it has no race, sex, or age bias, so you are not alone. Intertrigo (pronounced in-tur-try-go) typically occurs in skinfolds, where skin rubs together or in warm moist areas. It may occur in the armpits, behind the ears, in the crease of the neck, between fingers and toes, underneath breasts, on the abdomen, the buttocks, or in genital areas.  

What Causes it? 

Intertrigo is classified as an inflammatory skin condition, which means it may be caused by:  

  • Friction between skinfolds  
  • Moisture  
  • Heat  
  • Lack of ventilation/air circulation  

Intertrigo can be made worse by:  

  • Obesity  
  • Diabetes  
  • Immune disorders or conditions  
  • Prolonged exposure to hot and humid environments  
  • Excessive sweat  
  • Urine, feces, or other bodily fluids  
  • Poor diet/Malnutrition  
  • Wearing a brace, splint, cast, or artificial limb  

The takeaway is that friction plus heat and moisture causes skin breakdown and intertrigo.  

What are the symptoms?  

Intertrigo rash is red to reddish brown. It may appear solid at the center and more spotted at the borders. You may experience itchy, burning, raw, dry, cracked, bleeding, or oozing skin, and strong odor.   

A bacterial or fungal infection may also be present. Candida yeast infections are very commonly associated with intertrigo and may worsen symptoms.  

How can it be treated?  

Your doctor will inspect the rash and determine if it is Intertrigo. Additional diagnostic tests such as a Potassium hydroxide (KOH) test, Gram stain, or culture may be required to determine if the infection is bacterial or fungal. Skin biopsies are not typically required unless the intertrigo becomes resistant to medical treatment.  

The most common treatment is to keep the affected area cool and dry. Your doctor may prescribe the use of a topical steroid. If the site is infected, your doctor may recommend an antibiotic, antifungal cream, or ointment. In some cases, oral medication may be prescribed. 

You may be able to prevent and treat Intertrigo by following these simple steps:  

  • Shower and dry off thoroughly each day. It may help to use a blow dryer in a cool setting to dry skin folds and moist areas.  
  • Apply over-the-counter barrier creams or even petroleum jelly to the affected area.  
  • Allow as much air circulation over the area as possible.  
  • Consider sandals if the rash is in between your toes.  
  • If the rash is under the breasts, choose a bra with better support.  
  • Wear natural fabric like cotton. Nylon and synthetic fabrics may potentially increase heat and moisture.  
  • If poor diet or malnutrition is a cause, seek support from local agencies or food banks for access to better nutrition.  
  • If obesity is a contributing factor, consult a physician, nutritionist, therapist, or support group to make impactful lifestyle changes.  
  • Maintaining healthy glucose levels may help in cases where diabetes is a contributing factor.  


The rash episode will be short and infrequent with simple steps like good hygiene and proactive prevention.  


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