My experience with PUPPP

Seemingly overnight, my body has erupted in unbearably itchy rashes. 

It turned to be PUPPP, which is a mysterious pregnancy condition (what’s new) that hits around 34-35 weeks, and is cured only through childbirth (wtf).

I’m going to write down my experience with it here. Hopefully it’ll be of help to someone out there! 

If you’re having PUPPP right now, know that my heart goes out to you! I believe that only fellow sufferers know how bad this is; it’s only too easy for others to dismiss a little “itch” and say that we are just being dramatic.

Some Facts:

  • I’m having a girl (70% of PUPPP sufferers supposedly carry boys)
  • I have no stretch marks as yet (stretch marks are supposedly the first sign of PUPPP)
  • It is my first pregnancy 
  • The rash started on my abdomen, and has spread pretty much everywhere except my face, back, palms and soles

Days 1-3

Overall, I found little relief from the remedies I tried in Days 1 to 3, I barely got any rest except for times where I was so exhausted I fell asleep while sitting up.

Nevertheless, there were some things that provided some temporary relief.

青草油 Herbal Oil (Effectiveness: 7/10): I’ve read from articles online that camphor oil and menthol provide good relief for PUPPP rashes. In the local Singapore context, these 2 active ingredients can be found in good ol’ 青草油, which is a herbal remedy traditionally used for wounds and bites.

You can use whatever you can find that has camphor oil in it, if this is not available in your country.

I used a piece of cotton wool soaked in the oil, and spread it over the itchy areas. After it set in (around 5 minutes), the area felt significantly less itchy.

However the relief is short lived and lasts around 2 hours at best.

Baking Soda (Effectiveness: 5/10): I added water to baking soda (around 1:1 ratio) and applied it over the rash. I left it on for around 30 seconds to a minute, and then rinsed it off. It stung while it was on for a while, but after my skin dried off, the relief was real. 

My skin stopped itching to an extent that it allowed me to have at least a few hours of sleep. It seemed not to go back to the red/angry/itchy state as well, as long as I took care to keep myself dry and cool (mostly by being unclothed with the fan on), and not accidentally brush against any parts of my skin, which was sure to trigger an uncontrollable itch.

However, baking soda dries out skin very significantly, so… use with caution.

Hydrogen Peroxide 3% (Effectiveness: 4/10): Hydrogen peroxide is supposedly effective as an anti-itch for many ailments, but I guess not so much for PUPPP… I put some in a spray bottle, and sprayed on the affected areas. There was some relief, in that my skin felt slightly less like it’s itching ragefully, but it did not provide complete respite from the itching. And given that it is an acid of sorts… I don’t feel quite comfortable using too much of it. 

Prickly Heat Powder (Effectiveness 0/10): This just made my skin feel dryer and itchier. No go.

Tiger Balm (Effectiveness 0/10): I bought this because the main ingredient was camphor oil, but immediately regretted applying it. The warm sensation made my itch feel like it was on fire and magnified the sensation 10x!!

Days 4-5

I have not stepped out of my air conditioned room for the past few days, because the maximum time I can survive outside without dying from the itching is about 5 minutes.

Still exhausted and in misery. I’ve scratched till I bled in some places, most notably my arms. Having fleeting but frequent thoughts of inducing labour so that the rash subsides.

Dead Sea Salt Soap (Effectiveness 5/10): This felt better than the polytar soap (below), in that I did not break out in red and angry welts during and shortly after showering. It did also help to provide temporary relief for around 2-3 hours after a shower.

Dandelion Root Tea (Effectiveness 5/10): I started drinking 3 jugs of dandelion root tea daily. I think drinking more liquid in general helped, and the itch did seem to subside overall, but I’m not certain about the individual effectiveness of this remedy.

Polytar Soap (Effectiveness 4/10): I’m torn on whether I find this effective, because the rashes turn red and angry and swollen when I use the soap, and for 10 minutes after, I would feel like tearing my skin out. But after that, the itch does subside for around 4 hours. 

Wheatgrass Juice (Effectiveness 0/10): Wheatgrass is supposed to be detoxifying, and my father-in-law touts it as a miracle cure-all. But somehow my body just rejects it and I threw it up 20 minutes after consumption.

Banana Peel (Effectiveness 0/10): I read online that banana peels have managed to curb the itch for some women out there, but for me, it just made the area where I rubbed the peel on even worse.

Emu Oil (Effectiveness 0/10): This came highly recommended by my mother, who swears that it would at least make me stop itching, even if it did not cure the rash. Well, it did nothing…

Days 6-8

Things took a turn for the better. I still can’t sleep for more than 3 hours in a row, because once I sleep somehow my body heats up and the rash activates. But I can kind of function in the day by not wearing anything and staying in air conditioning!

Unfortunately I scratched till the skin on my stomach came off, on 1 particularly sleepless night.

V8 Original Juice (Effectiveness 7/10): I was skeptical that a canned drink would work, but lo and behold… it somehow did! I drank 2 cans a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. My rash miraculously stopped itching for longer periods of time!

Piriton – Chlorpheniramine Antihistamine Pills (Effectiveness 5/10): My gynaecologist finally came back from his holiday, and gave me antihistamine pills. On the first night I had them, I managed to sleep for a good 6 hours until I woke up itchy again. It stopped being of much help from the second day onwards…. But then I was also hesitant of taking any drugs during pregnancy, so I didn’t go for the full dose of 3 pills a day.

Cetaphil Moisturising Cream (Effectiveness 6/10): I was wary of moisturising my skin, because so far, my skin felt better when it was dry. But I gave it a try anyway because I read that it worked for someone else. Thank goodness I did, because the rashes on my neck and chest faded significantly once I applied this! It made no difference to other areas, but I’ll take what I can get, thank you very much.

Days 9-10

I would say that my condition is at around 15% of what it was when the rash first broke out, so something somewhere in Day 6-10 must have worked.

The itch comes fiercely only once every day at around 4-5am, and subsides mostly for the remainder of the day.

The rashes on my neck and chest have faded, and those on my stomach have dried and scabbed up. My hands and legs are still bumpy and red.

Dandelion Root Capsules (Effectiveness 9/10): My package from iHerb finally arrived, and I took 2 capsules immediately. I was doubtful that it would work so fast, but that day, I almost didn’t itch at all. 

Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap (Effectiveness 9/10): I was so afraid that this would have the same effects as the polytar soap (in that it would make me itch uncontrollably before giving relief), but it’s so not the same thing. I instantly felt better after showering, and didn’t itch (very much) until almost 24 hours later!

Chinese Traditional Medicine (Effectiveness 9/10): Being at my wit’s end, I went down to the traditional chinese medicine practitioner to see if he could be of any help. He said that this condition is because my blood is retaining too much “heat”, and this heat has no way of being expelled from my body, hence the angry rashes.

I was given (bitter, bitter) medicine to drink for 5 days. Around 1 hour the first cup, my ears became extremely hot and red. I feel that this could be the “heat” escaping from my body? Maybe? In any case, I did feel better after taking the drinks, but of course I took this in conjunction with the dandelion root capsules and pine tar soap, so I can’t say for sure which worked. (And I don’t really care, as long as something worked.)

Aveeno Active Naturals 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream (Effectiveness 2/10): This cream… hmmm. It kind of works for certain very specific areas that itch just a tiny bit, but has no effect at all for the rest.

Day 18

I consider myself fully recovered! I can sleep through the night and cover myself with my normal blanket without completely heating up. Sure, there are still patches of rash on my arms and legs, but compared to what it was before, they are not even considered problems.


General Tips

Here are the other changes I made, I’m not sure how and to what extent they contributed to the rash subsiding, but it can’t hurt to try.

  • Staying mostly naked in air conditioning
  • Drinking fresh fruit/vegetable juice at least twice a day
  • Drinking chrysanthemum tea, barley, and green bean (mung bean) soup
  • Using a light muslin cloth as my blanket instead of the usual thick one
  • Distracting myself with videos and other things to stop thinking about the itch
  • Drinking 3L of water daily
  • Eating only food that has cooled down to room temperature
  • Trying my darndest best not to scratch

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