Skin being the largest organ in the body plays an important role in the regulation of body temperature through the sweating process and also protects the interior of the body from environmental insults.
Skin is therefore subjected to varying degrees of stress on account of changes in climatic conditions.
In summer one may experience a range of skin problems either due to the direct effect of Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun or from excessive sweating.
Skin infections (Bacterial & Fungal) are also common in the summer months due to a combination of excessive sweating, inappropriate clothing & non maintenance of adequate personal hygiene.
Summer being a time for school & college vacations, individuals & families spend a lot of time in outdoor activities (outdoor sports, swimming, travelling &visiting places).This results in excessive unaccustomed UVR exposure resulting in problems like sunburn reactions & photosensitive skin disorders like Polymorphic Light Eruption.
Sunscreens and other sun protection methods (Using an umbrella or wearing a wide brimmed hat) help to mitigate this problem to a large extent.
Sunscreens in the SPF range of 30 to 50 & a critical wavelength of 360 to 370 nm is sufficient for the skin of South Indian population to a large extent. Higher SPF’s do not offer significantly substantial additional sun protection and can sometimes cause contact dermatitis due to increase in the number of chemical ingredients needed to provide a higher SPF.
For swimming & water sports activities, a water resistant sunscreen (40 minutes protection) or Very water resistant sunscreen (80 minutes protection) can be used.
Persons with pre-existing photosensitive skin problems need to consult their dermatologist for appropriate sun protection and related advice before embarking on trips & other outdoor activities.
Excessive sweating in summer (physiological event to maintain body temperature in response to increased environmental temperature) can cause a variety of skin problems.
Prickly Heat (Miliaria) is caused by the occlusion of sweat ducts due to a combination of excessive sweating and tight occlusive clothing. It can get secondarily infected at times.
In our part of the world, it is advisable to wear loose cotton clothing during the summer season. Tight fitting outfits (Jeans, Leggings etc.) and synthetic clothing are to be avoided as far as possible during the summer months.
Excessive sweating either in combination with tight occlusive clothing or accumulation of sweat in body folds (especially in overweight/obese individuals) or both these factors provides a fertile breeding ground for microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. Skin infections therefore abound in summer.
Bacterial skin infections (impetigo, folliculitis, furunculosis, abscesses etc) presenting as painful boils or oozing crusted lesions are commonly seen in summer across all age groups. It is particularly severe in diabetics.
Fungal infections (Dermatophytosis) are also extremely common in summer. It is commonly referred to as Ring worm due to the annular clinical morphology.
Persons who develop bacterial or fungal skin conditions should consult a dermatologist and get their problems addressed. Self medication should be strictly avoided as it can lead to worsening of an otherwise most often easy to manage condition, pose problems to the community due to anti microbial resistance issues & can sometimes pose diagnostic confusion to the treating dermatologist.
To protect oneself from skin infections, personal hygiene standards should be maintained at the highest level especially during the summer months. Having a bath twice a day with change of clothes goes a long way in avoiding infections. People wearing socks should change them regularly. One should bathe immediately following an intensely perspiring activity like sports or gym training sessions.
Summer season being the most predominant holidaying and relaxing time for a vast majority of people can be enjoyed to the most without any nuisance & pain caused by skin conditions if one follows meticulously smart & simple hygiene, clothing & UV protection measures.
Article by Dr Vijay Kartik V, MBBS, DVD
Consultant Dermatologist, Kauvery Hospital, Chennai