The cool winter days are a distant memory and scorching summer heat is already knocking at the doors. With the unsparing sun at its brightest, summer heat does more harm than good. Ayurveda says summer is the season when pitta dosha is particularly aggravated. Pitta dosha is responsible for all kinds of transformations, including digestion of food, to generate energy.
What is prickly heat?
It is natural for the body to sweat to cool off the system when the external temperature is soaring. But for a few of us, trouble starts when the sweat glands get blocked, leading to prickly heat.
When dead skin cells and bacteria accumulate on the skin surface, they cause the sweat glands to get blocked. The sweat then seeps into nearby tissues causing tiny pockets of skin to get inflamed. When these burst and release the sweat, you feel a stinging, prickling sensation, which lasts for a couple of days. If left untreated, prickly heat can lead to skin infections.
Treat it with food
Traditional foods hold miraculous properties that have the ability to prevent and heal an ailment if taken at the right time and in the right quantity. So, to prepare our body for the dehydrating and scorching summer, here’s what you need to include in your diet:
Watermelon: The best fruit to hydrate the body, it has more than 90 per cent water content and is rich in Vitamins A and C and antioxidants too. The white part of the fruit, which we unknowingly discard, contains most of the nutrients. These nutrients help speed up wound healing that usually happens when heat boils burst. Serve watermelon sherbet with a few drops of mint juice to fight heat stroke and prevent build up of sweat.
Citrus fruits: If you are prone to heat boils, drink plenty of juices, especially of citrus fruits. Vitamin C and citrus bioflavonoids have antioxidant properties that maintain healthy sweat glands.
Jackfruit: Also called the treat of summer, this potassium-rich fruit helps maintain the water and salt balance of the body. An infusion of jackfruit root can also treat a number of skin ailments including prickly heat and rashes.
Coconut water: The best natural alternative to Oral Rehydration Solution, coconut water contains all the nutrients in just the right balance. It cools the body naturally, rehydrates and simultaneously replenishes the nutrients lost while sweating.
Buttermilk: A glass of cold buttermilk is a great option. Buttermilk differs from milk as it promotes cooling of the system, and prevents heat build-up, which could eventually cause boils.
Raw mangoes: Aam ka panna, the famous Maharashtrian cooler, is apt for quenching thirst in summer. Simply boil the raw mangoes with raw sugar till it is pulpy. Strain and refrigerate. The antioxidants and beta carotene prevent heat boils from appearing on the skin.
Grapes: Grapes protect the body against dehydration. Summer is a season marked by frequent viral fever attacks, and studies have shown that the flavonoids present in grape juice contain anti viral properties. These flavonoids help the sweat glands to stay healthy.
Cucumber: Famous for its cooling properties, cucumber is an ideal food in summer. Fresh cucumber juice when applied on the skin cures sunburns. High in fibre and rich in water and minerals, cucumber is best for dieters and diabetics. Have cucumber raita daily to prevent heat symptoms like sun burns, rashes and of course prickly heat.
Bitter gourd (karela): Bitter gourd is an astringent vegetable. Drink a cup of karela juice mixed with a teaspoon of lemon juice on an empty stomach in the morning to prevent heat boils.
Keeping the skin clean
When heat boils burst, the cells become susceptible to bacterial infections. Here’s how you can keep your skin healthy.
Wear loose, airy and natural fabrics: Tight-fitting garments made from synthetic materials like polyester lead to accumulation of sweat.
Apply prickly heat or talcum powder: Especially on the affected area, to prevent it from becoming too moist.
Use sandalwood paste face mask: Sandalwood has a calming, cooling effect on the body and the mind.
Wash yourself with water boiled with neem leaves: Wash your hands, face, back and neck with neem water. It has an antibacterial effect on the skin and keeps you from getting prickly heat.
A paste to treat prickly heat: Mix a teaspoon of milk cream with a little vinegar and a pinch of turmeric powder and apply this paste around the area surrounding the boils. The antiseptic effect of the mixture minimises the chances of the infection turning septic.
Prickly heat is a sign of accumulated toxins in the body. Free your body of impurities and you’ll find relief from heat boils.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.