woman itching her arm during the summer

Let’s talk sweat! It’s summer, and we’re all experiencing it. Heat and humidity combine to cook up a prime environment for several skin conditions related to sweating that can make us very uncomfortable. 

Prickly Heat (miliaria)

Also called “heat rash,” this is an inflammation of the ducts that carry our sweat out of our bodies and onto our skin. There is a prickly sensation as the ducts rise up into itchy bumps. 

Sweat ducts can be blocked by perspiration-soaked clothing, fabric that is too tight, and heavy lotions or creams. 

Prevention and Remedy:

  • The best prevention is breathable, looser fabrics with plenty of airflow, and staying cool and dry.
  • A cool shower if possible, or a cold compress on the areas should help, along with changing into dry clothing. An over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can also be used, but prickly heat usually resolves on its own as the skin cools down.  

Fungal Infections

Athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm all belong to a family of fungal infections called tinea. Caused by fungi called dermatophytes that live on our skin, hair, and nails. If given the opportunity, these fungi will multiply, spread, and cause trouble. They love warm, moist areas and appear on different parts of the body.  

Look for these signs of a fungal skin infection: 

  • Irritation
  • Scaly skin
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Blistering

Athlete’s Foot (tinea pedis)

Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection that affects the skin on your feet, most often appearing between the toes, but it can spread to the sole of the foot. It is contagious and thrives in moist areas like public showers, locker rooms, and pool decking. 

Prevention and Remedy

  • Always wear sandals in these public spaces and avoid sharing towels.
  • Do yourself (and others) a favor and change sweaty socks as soon as possible! 
  • Wear socks with your sneakers, or change sneakers often. 
  • Alternate with sandals so feet stay dry.

Jock Itch (tinea cruris

Jock itch is a fungal skin infection that happens in the area of your groin and thighs. And women can get it too, even without the jock strap. Women’s popular exercise clothing is often made from tight fitting spandex fabrics which hold in heat and moisture. 

Prevention and Remedy

  • Get out of any sweaty exercise clothes as soon as you can. 
  • Shower, washing thoroughly with soap, dry off well–don’t forget under breasts.
  • Do not lounge around in a wet bathing suit.
  • Again, wear flip flops in a public shower.
  • Wear clothing that “breathes well,” such as cotton.
  • Apply an over-the-counter antifungal cream, powder, or spray to the affected area as directed.

Ringworm (tinea corporis)

No worm present here, the name comes from the crescent shape lesion the fungus leaves on the skin. Corporis means “of the body” so this refers to the tinea that usually shows up on the torso, arms, or legs. Ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis) often starts as isolated scaling in the scalp that develops into itchy, scaly bald patches. Children seem to be most prone to this type and it can be contracted from pets.

Prevention and Remedy

  • Wash your hands after interacting with an animal.
  • Wear shoes if showering or walking in community areas.
  • Don’t share items like clothing, hats, or hairbrushes with people who might have ringworm.
  • Keep your skin clean and dry.
  • As with the other tinea, ringworm of the body can be treated with topical medications, such as antifungal creams, ointments, gels, or sprays.

Candida or Yeast Infection

We all have small amounts of candida albicans in our mouths and gut, and women usually carry a benign amount in their vagina. But, given the right environment, it grows and becomes a yeast infection. Vaginal yeast infections (vaginal candidiasis) are the most common, affecting up to 3 out of 4 women at some point in their lifetimes.

Yeast infection symptoms can include:

  • Itching and irritation in the vagina and vulva
  • A burning sensation, especially during intercourse or while urinating
  • Redness and swelling of the vulva
  • Vaginal pain and soreness
  • Vaginal rash
  • Thick, white, odor-free vaginal discharge with a cottage cheese appearance
  • Watery vaginal discharge

Prevention and Remedy

  • Cotton underwear is your friend. At least make sure the crotch is cotton.
  • Avoid wearing Spanx-type undergarments for long periods.
  • Douching upsets the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina–not needed.
  • Avoid scented feminine products, bubble baths, and oils.
  • Use antibiotics wisely.
  • Again, get out of wet bathing suits or workout clothes. 

See your health care provider if your symptoms have not improved after treating with over-the-counter antifungal vaginal creams or suppositories.

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