Irritated summer skin

25th January, 2017
Delia du Toit


Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a condition where sufferers’ skin overreacts to certain triggers. The symptoms are dry skin with skin lesions, ranging from a mild itchy rash to inflamed blisters which may cause thickened skin patches when scratched, says PW Buys, dispensary manager at Dis‑Chem Cresta.

“It’s most prevalent on the elbows, wrists, back of the neck and the knees,” he says.

Eczema is often accompanied by hay fever, sinusitis or asthma. Though dry winter skin is one of eczema sufferers’ worst enemies, hot summer’s days can wreak havoc too – depending on your specific triggers.

To help prevent eczema bouts or soothe rashes and itching, try these tips:

  • Avoid very hot baths – rather shower.
  • Never use perfumed or harsh soaps, bubble baths or creams.
  • Use a rich, but hypoallergenic, moisturiser at least once a day.
  • Try not to scratch.
  • Make sure your room is not too warm to avoid sweating while sleeping.
  • Wash directly after exercise.
  • Avoid antibacterial skin products. They kill off the very weak bacteria, which makes more room for other bacteria and fungi to grow.
  • Biological washing powders and fabric softeners should be avoided.
  • In bad cases, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids or an antibiotic.

Heat Rash

A heat rash can develop when your pores become blocked and sweat can’t escape – mostly in hot, humid climates or due to friction on the surface of the skin. Adults usually develop heat rash in the parts of their bodies that rub together, such as between the inner thighs or under the arms, while babies tend to develop it on their necks.

There are different types:

  • The most common, and mildest, is a rash of clear or white bumps filled with fluid. These bumps are bubbles of sweat and will often burst. It doesn’t itch and shouldn’t be painful.
  • Another presents as red bumps with itchy or prickly sensations, a lack of sweat in the affected area and soreness. If it progresses, the bumps may fill with pus.
  • The least common form is chronic and occurs in the deeper layers of the skin. The symptoms are larger, tough, flesh-coloured bumps – often after physical activity.

Luckily, heat rash is rarely serious and can dissipate without treatment in a few days. You can help ease symptoms by applying calamine lotion or placing a cool, wet cloth on the area. You should see a doctor, however, if it’s accompanied by nausea, dizziness, fever or chills and increasing pain.

Allergic Reactions

Contact dermatitis is caused by irritants your skin is particularly sensitive to. Irritants and the severity of the rash vary from person to person, but the symptoms are usually a localised rash or redness and itching.

If you suspect an allergy, try to figure out which irritants are to blame and avoid them if possible.

These can include:

  • Solvents and detergents
  • Sweat
  • Grass and pollen
  • Wool and nylon clothing or carpets
  • Dust mites and animal hair

Food allergies could also be to blame. Common culprits include cow’s milk, eggs, fish, peanuts, wheat, soya, additives and colourants. Though not usually allergy-inducing, some people also have reactions to citrus fruits, tropical fruits, tomatoes, cheese or chocolate.

Any allergens also aggravate eczema and should be avoided if you think they could be causing your flare-ups.