If you're reading this issue of Brunch in your comfortably air-conditioned home on a Sunday morning, count yourself lucky. Because when you step out in the sun, you know what the peak of the hot season can really be like. Apart from the usual problems of sweating and turning redder or browner, there are more serious ailments that can easily take the fun out of being out.
You needn't squirrel yourself away indoors just to survive. Modern medicine and simple products offer new solutions to old problems and lots of tried and tested ways to keep smiling as the days get warmer.
ITCH TO ITS OWN
Can you imagine summer without those ghastly TV ads of kids scratching at their prickly heat? The bumpy skin rash occurs when you sweat more than usual. "This causes irritation and results in a red rash that develops usually on the back and in front," says Dr Sunil Sanghi, a senior consulting dermatologist with Fortis.
In most cases the rash disappears in a few days and the itching is soothed by anti-bacterial powder. But if it is severe, it's best to seek medical advice. "A cold compress can provide relief," says Dr Sanghi. So does a cold shower twice a day. The old trick of wearing loose cotton clothes helps. "Avoid scratching and using a lot of lotions as it can clog the pores making the rash sting more," Dr Sanghi suggests.
Asun allergy is a rash that occurs mainly on the exposed areas of the skin. "It's your immune system's reaction to sunlight," says Dr Navin Taneja, director of the National Skin Centre. He describes the symptoms as an itchy red breakout that commonly appears on the "V" of the neck, the back of the hands, the outer arms and lower legs.
According to Dr Taneja, the most effective way to avoid it is to wear full-sleeved clothes, carry an umbrella and avoid being out in the sun, especially between 10am and 4pm. "Avoid surgical laser procedures, skincare products and medicines that may trigger a photoallergic eruption," he says. "These include certain antibiotics as well as prescription medicines used to treat psychiatric illness, high blood pressure and heart failure."
THE DARK SIDE
Most of us tan, but some of us end up with stubborn dark spots and patches, rather than an even, all-over glow. "This is known as Melasma, which can be aggravated by pregnancy and even abortion and in some cases nutritional deficiency," explains Dr Anjita Bagai, a senior dermatologist at Max Healthcare.
While a diet rich in vitamin C, proteins and green leafy vegetables helps, even taking vitamin E capsules and using sunscreen (go in for PA+++) can help your skin prevent this kind of pigmentation and avoid tanning.
THE GERM INVASION
For a lot of people, summer also brings heat boils. "Here also, hygiene plays a big role," says Dr Sanghi. "If you sweat a lot, be more careful. Mild boils can be tackled with an anti-bacterial skin cream like Mupirocin at home. But if they are more severe, they'll need proper consultation and antibiotics."
Besides the harsh sun, even an insect bite can lead to a rash in the summer. "If the rash is sun induced then applying calamine lotion works best as it soothes the skin," adds Dr Sanghi.
From HT Brunch, June 15
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