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Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - May 2007

The Itchy Truth About Summer Rashes
Stop scratching your head over how to deal with the skin discomforts that can come with fun in the sun.

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Summer RashesDownload those golden oldies - such as Martha and the Vandellas' "Heat Wave" or The Searchers' "Bumble Bee" - and you'll find musical answers to the question: What's behind warm-weather itches?

Summer's the time for dancing in the street and other outdoor activities. But fear of rashes and inflammations might keep you inside. Here's how to make certain you don't sing the summertime blues.

Beat the Heat
Heat rash occurs when high temperatures, humidity, and tight-fitting clothes conspire to trap perspiration under the skin. You might see small reddish bumps on your neck, chest, or back or in areas where skin touches skin - and you'll certainly notice the itching. When the blistery bumps burst and release blocked sweat, there's a needles-and-pins sensation, which is why heat rash also is called "prickly heat."

Heat rash usually goes away without treatment within a few days, but you can speed healing and relieve itching by taking a cool, minty bath. Wrap a cup or two of fresh peppermint leaves in cheesecloth, then immerse the bag in a warm bath and enjoy a long soak. No peppermint? Add several tablespoons of baking soda or finely ground oatmeal to your bathwater instead.

If your rash or inflammation hasn't responded to natural or over-the-counter remedies within a few days, call your doctor. Seek help immediately if it's accompanied by nausea, headache, or excessive thirst; rarely, heat rash can affect the body's internal thermostat and lead to more serious heat exhaustion.

Buzz Off
The telltale buzz might help you avoid getting stung by a bee, but when it comes to bites from mosquitoes and other insects, you're on your own. If you've fallen prey to any of them, you may try an herbal remedy to relieve inflamed skin.

Some bug bites worsen in the heat, says Dennis McKenna, Ph.D, author of Botanical Medicines: The Desk Reference for Major Herbal Supplements. McKenna suggests wrapping ice packs in a towel and applying to the affected area 10 to 15 minutes to reduce swelling. He notes that tea tree oils have long been used for their antiseptic and antibacterial qualities; applying this essential oil to the affected area promotes faster healing.

Elise Bohaty, holistic practitioner and owner of breathing room, a preventive medicine and chronic pain clinic in Wayzata, Minnesota, suggests a dietary approach: garlic capsules. "Garlic acts as an antibacterial - it's a natural antibiotic and it strengthens the immune system," she says. Best of all, garlic seems to make bothersome bugs pester you a little less.

If an insect sting causes a constricted throat, confusion, hives, a rapid pulse, or difficulty breathing, you could be allergic and should get medical help immediately. In severe cases, a sting can be fatal.

Now that you know how to look out for your skin, enjoy this season in the sun. With luck, the only itching you'll have to deal with will be the kind The Supremes crooned about in "Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart" - and what's not to like about that?

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