Red Blemishes on the Back & Arms After Yard Work

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Whether you have a green thumb or not, doing yard work can expose you to a variety of plants, weeds and insects that can cause skin irritation, rashes and bites. Accurately identifying the cause of skin irritation can lead to a quick recovery and prevent it from happening again in the future.


The cause of red blemishes on the back and arms after yard work can differ, based on the type of yard work that you did as well as your geographical location. Native plants, weeds and insects vary widely, depending on landscape and climate. Irritation on your back and arms could be caused by physical contact with branches, leaves or brush. Plants with thorns or thistles can be especially dangerous. According to, exposure to poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac can cause allergic contact dermatitis, a type of eczema. Insect bites can include mosquitoes, ticks, spiders, bees and wasps to name a few.

Signs and Symptoms

Your back and arms may appear scratched if your skin came in contact with sharp branches, and it is unlikely that there is a regular pattern to the irritation. Signs and symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis include itchy, red and swollen skin or dry and bumpy skin and blisters, if the reaction is severe. Insect bites vary in appearance, based on the type of insect that bit you.


Check to make sure there are no thorns and thistles embedded in your skin. You may want to use tweezers if you are unable to remove them with your fingers. Wash any scratches or open areas with lukewarm water and mild soap. You may want to apply antibiotic ointment to them and cover them with adhesive bandages to prevent infection. According to, home treatment for poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac includes applying over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream several times a day, applying cool, moist compresses for 15 to 30 minutes several times a day, taking oral antihistamines and soaking in cool baking soda or oatmeal bathes. If you were bitten by an insect and are unsure what insect it was, you may want to consider getting the bite looked at by a doctor, especially if the bite is accompanied by a systemic, or body-wide, response.


Sufficient clothing may be the easiest and most effective protection against skin irritation while doing yard work. While it may be uncomfortable to wear long sleeves when it is warm outside, even a thin layer can protect your skin. Wear work gloves as your hands may be the most vulnerable to injury and irritation. Apply sunscreen to any exposed areas of skin and reapply as directed. Use insect repellent to decrease your chances of being bitten. When you are finished with your yard work, thoroughly check your skin for irritations and, if possible, have someone else check the areas that are more difficult to see, like your back. Taking a cold shower can cleanse your skin of irritants.


Most red blemishes on the back and arms should resolve on their own within a few days after doing yard work. However, if the blemishes get worse or spread, you should see a dermatologist to see if additional treatment is required. According to, if you notice a bull's-eye type rash anywhere on your body, see a doctor as soon as possible as this could be a symptom of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is prevalent in heavily wooded areas and is caused by the bite of a deer tick. It requires antibiotic treatment and -- the sooner you seek treatment -- the better the outcome.