I'm a dermatologist – here's 7 itches more common in a heatwave (and how to ease them) | The Sun

A DERMATOLOGIST has revealed how you can treat seven itches that are more common in the hot weather.

It comes amidst a UK-wide heatwave, with a record-breaking temperature recorded today.

Consultant dermatologist Dr Eva Melegh said summer rashes can distract you from work, disrupt sleep and make life uncomfortable.

But you don’t need to let it – follow her tips to combat the most common summer skin complaints:

Itchy shins

It seems rather random, but the shins are the first place where dry skin manifests, says Dr Eva.

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“If you are dehydrated from sleeping or working in air-conditioned rooms your shins will be the first place where you are likely to get dry itchy and flaky skin,” she said.

“It may also be caused by a contact allergy to grass from walking bare legged outside.

"This causes inflammation along with intense itching and will likely get worse at night.” 

How to treat it: Dr Eva said if your skin is red, raised and itchy, this is likely due to a grass allergy (summer hay fever), in which case an antihistamine cream from the chemist should do the trick.

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Otherwise, dehydration is more likely to be the problem and it’s best to use a “non-perfumed intense salve or emollient” after showering in the evening, and again in the morning.

Dr Eva advised against shaving, waxing, and sun exposure until the skin improves.

Itchy intimates

An itch down there is more likely when the weather is hot because bacteria thrive in warm, moist conditions. 

Dr Eva said: “Itchy intimate areas are most likely to be caused by an infection caused by fungal overgrowth, commonly known as thrush, due to extreme heat building up in intimate areas.

“Fungal growth flourishes in warm damp conditions so if your itching is around the genital and or anal region its most likely to be fungal overgrowth causing the problem.”

How to treat it: Your local pharmacy will sell treatments for thrush, or you can get a prescription from your GP.

Dr Eva said: “Anti-fungal creams for intimate skin containing the anti-fungal ingredient Clotrimazole are the quickest way to treat the problem.

“However, once the itching has subsided fungus can still lurk in the intimate skin waiting for another chance to multiple again in the hot humid conditions. 

“It’s important to carry out diligent after care of the area while the heat is on in order to prevent a repeat fungal overgrowth.

“Avoid any perfumed or chemical intimate products either for washing or lubrication purposes.”

Itchy palms

“Dyshidrosis is a skin condition that causes small, fluid-filled blisters to form on the palms of the hands and sides of the fingers, and sometimes the feet.

“It is often triggered by extreme heat and is often referred to as ‘heat blisters’.”

The cause of dyshidrosis, also known as pompholyx, is not fully understood. 

It is a form of eczema and may be triggered by heat and sweat, strong chemicals in soaps and cleaning products, an allergy, stress and getting the hands wet too often, the NHS says. 

How to treat it: If you think you have dyshidrosis, you should see a GP who may prescribe an steroid cream.

Dr Eva said: “This condition is quite tricky to get rid of and can last for weeks. 

“A treatment for insect bites such as Fenistil gel can initially reduce the intense itching from this condition. 

“Once the itching has subsided its likely the palms will then become very dry and flaky. A rich perfume-free hypoallergenic hand salve designed for atopic skin should be used 2-3 times daily.

“It’s important not to just use any hand cream as the skin is likely to be in a state of hypersensitivity- a chemical or perfume in a hand cream could kick the problem off again. 

“Hand salves containing turmeric are particularly helpful as turmeric has an anti-inflammatory action.”

She suggested putting on cotton gloves, then rubber gloves (due to potential allergies), before doing any household cleaning, and non-latex gloves when hair-washing.

Itchy eyelids

Itchy eyes are something millions of Brits are familiar with due to hay fever.

“They may also be caused by an allergy to a sun cream (especially chemical filter ones),” Dr Eva said.

“The eyelids and around the eyes are much more delicate and so may react to the ingredients in SPF creams more easily.

“In addition, if you are of peri-menopausal age and have not previously suffered from hay fever but develop irritated and itchy eyelids this might be a condition called blepharitis.

“This common yet lesser-known early symptom of menopause caused by a drop in oestrogen and triggered by extreme heat, much like hot flushes.”

Blepharitis causes the eyelids to stick together in the morning, flakes around the eyelash roots and a gritty feeling, as well as itchiness. 

How to treat it: Blepharitis can be treated by cleaning the eyes twice a day. But if this doesn’t work, and symptoms don’t improve for a few weeks, see a GP who might prescribe an antibiotic cream.

Dr Eva said: "Phytosterols, which are natural substances from plants with a similar yet milder action to chemical steroids, are gentle enough to use in this area.

“Try Hydrosil Dry Eye Gel which contains the phytosterol cardiospermum halicacabum.”

Itchy scalp

Dr Eva said when it’s hot, an itchy scalp may be the sign of sunburn.  

She said: “Many of us forget that the scalp can get sunburned too.

"It is often left exposed to direct UV rays and can easily get burned, resulting in dryness and itching followed by fine flaking that can last for several weeks.”

She added: “Sweat, chlorine from pools and cheap hotel shampoos can also cause irritation, itching and dryness of the scalp.”

How to treat it: Dr Eva said the worst thing you can do is to use an anti-dandruff shampoo, which is to treat a fungus, not dry skin.

She said: “The best treatment is to avoid all shampoos and hair products that contain perfumes and chemicals until the itching and flaking subsides. 

“Opt for a natural shampoo and preferably one that helps re-build scalp microbiota which will have been damaged by the sunburn.”

Dr Eva recommended Scalp Shield Shampoo & Tonic which contains a scalp prebiotic ingredient from passion fruit seeds to help repair damaged scalp microbiota.

Eczema in the crevices

Eczema is a relatively common condition, but some may only suffer when they get hot and sweaty, having flare-ups for the first time in years.

Dr Eva said: “Intense itching and inflammation in the cracks and crevices of the skin such as elbows, behind knees and ears, under the armpits and in the thigh and anal cracks are likely to be eczema.

“Many adults who had eczema as children grow out of it as adults.

“However, in extreme heat conditions it’s not uncommon to see a recurrence of adult eczema in these vulnerable areas.”

How to treat it: Eczema is a chronic condition that can be tricky to treat.

Dr Eva said the quickest relief is a low dose hydrocortisone [steroid] cream from the GP is the quickest way to relieve the problem – but try not to use it for too long. 

“As soon as the itching and redness subsides begin vigorous moisturising of the areas with a hypoallergenic emollient or salve 2-3 times daily,” she said. 

“Avoid any clothing that is rubbing on the affected area and try and keep it as aired and dry as possible.

“Shower in tepid water rather than hot water, ideally sleep naked and keep the area from getting sweaty.

“If sweat does build up, try and shower the dry sweat off as soon as possible and re-moisturise afterwards. If possible, avoid chlorine from pools until the skin has improved.”

Itchy lips

Hot itchy skin around the lip area or under the nose is most likely the first sign of an emerging cold sore, Dr Eva said.

It’s caused by the herpes simplex virus, which lies dormant in the skin around the lip area.

“Direct sun and heat are the main triggers for activating it,” Dr Eva said.

“Before a cold sore actually appears, usually the area of skin around the lips or under the nose becomes hot and very itchy.”

How to treat it: Most people who have had cold sores before will likely know how to tackle it as soon as possible.

Dr Eva said the key with an emerging cold sore is to try and prevent it breaking out, adding that most treatments, such as Compeed patches, are only for when the cold sore is young. 

If it’s your first one, you can either got to a pharmacist who can give over-the-counter medicines, or see a GP if it has not healed within ten days. 

“Once a cold sore has burst out there’s not a lot to be done,” said Eva.

“Keep the area out of the sun, don’t touch it, don’t put make up on it and use a cold compress on it.

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“There are not many preventative treatments for cold sores.

“However one that has been trialled by the Herpes Virus Association is Lip Q Liquorice Balm (lipq.co.uk) which was found in the trial to reduce the severity and duration of cold sore outbreaks as well as increase the duration between outbreaks if used regularly and especially during periods of increased sun exposure.”

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