How to keep skin itch free this summer

Summer may be the ideal time to show off your skin – but not if it’s itchy, red and inflamed. Here’s a quick guide to keeping your skin itch free while the weather’s hot…

Eczema If you’re among the one in twelve adults or one in five children living in the UK with eczema, you’ll know only too well that it can affect you at any time of year, not just during the summer. But while some people find their eczema improves when they expose their skin to sunlight, others find hot weather can aggravate their condition.

Some experts believe that’s because hot temperatures make your skin release a substance called histamine, which causes itching. However, other things could worsen your eczema during the summer, including sweating more than usual and coming into contact with chemicals in swimming pools.

If your eczema flares up when the weather’s hot, avoid strong sunshine and try to keep as cool as possible. And if you‘ve been swimming in a chlorinated pool, take a shower as soon afterwards as possible to rise the chemicals off your skin.

Don’t forget to keep using your usual skincare products, including lotions, creams and sprays for dry skin or special moisturisers called emollients, which you apply to your skin or use in the bath or shower. Meanwhile if your skin is very itchy, ask your Careway pharmacist if they can recommend a particular type of antihistamine tablet that makes you feel drowsy, which could help you sleep at night.

It’s also important to protect your skin from the sun when you have eczema, though you may have to try more than one type of sunscreen, as some contain ingredients that can irritate your skin. Ask your pharmacist to help you find a suitable product, such as a sunscreen without fragrance or other ingredients commonly known to cause irritation (aim for a product with minimum SPF15 and five-star UVA protection).

Prickly heat Also known as miliaria rubra, prickly heat causes a prickling or stinging sensation in the skin, accompanied by a rash with little spots that can look like tiny blisters. It usually appears on your face, neck, back, chest or thighs a few days after you’ve been in a hot climate, and is the result of your sweat glands becoming blocked.

According to the NHS, anyone can get prickly heat, though certain things can increase your risk of developing it, including spending long periods in bed (if you’re ill or immobile, for instance), being overweight or obese or wearing too much clothing.

Keeping your skin as cool as possible is the best way to overcome prickly heat, so stay out of the sun and the humidity, wear loose cotton clothing and drink plenty of fluids. A cool bath or shower will also help to keep you cool. Products you can buy from your local pharmacy can also help, including calamine lotion, which can help soothe and cool your skin.

Polymorphic light eruption Often referred to as sun allergy, polymorphic light eruption (PLE) is an itchy skin rash triggered by a reaction to the UVA and UVB rays in sunlight (or artificial forms of sunlight, such as sun beds). It’s thought to affect up to 15 percent of the UK population, with women thought to be more likely to develop PLE than men. The condition can also run in families, says the NHS, with around 20 percent of people with PLE having another family member affected.

The good news is many people with PLE have a flare-up at the beginning of the summer – usually when they’re exposed to strong sunlight for the first time that year – after which the symptoms can ease and even disappear altogether if they stay out of the sun for a week or so.

Treatments include applying calamine lotion or taking antihistamine tablets to relieve itching – your Careway pharmacist can help you choose the right treatment for you.

Staying in the shade and covering yourself up as much as possible when the sun is strong may help prevent further outbreaks,. But if you do have to go out when the sun is strong, use a high-factor sunscreen to prevent another rash from developing (your GP may prescribe a sunscreen for you, otherwise ask your pharmacist to recommend a sunscreen with SPF30 or higher protection as well as a five-star UVA rating).

Stings and bites The risk of being bitten or stung by an insect is also higher during the summer months than at other times of the year. Bites and stings make your skin react by becoming red, swollen and itchy – but in most cases, they’re not dangerous.

However, around a quarter of people who are bitten or stung by an insect experience a more serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which can be life threatening. If you experience symptoms such as breathing difficulties, dizziness, difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or a rapid heart rate, get emergency help immediately by calling 999.

If your reaction is mild, a cold compress applied on the affected area can help reduce swelling. You may also want to take an over-the-counter painkiller to relieve any discomfort, plus you could take an antihistamine or apply a steroid cream to ease itching (ask your pharmacist to recommend a product that would suit you best).

Tip If you’ve been stung by a bee, remove the sting from your skin by flicking or scraping it out with your nail or a credit card while trying not to puncture the venom sac – squeezing the sting could make more of the venom get into your skin.

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