Summers in the Philippines are unbearable. Even the slightest movement can make you sweat, which makes you want to just sit still and do nothing. Even during monsoon season, the heat can still get extremely uncomfortable because of the humidity.
For someone like me who already sweats a lot in general, the Philippine heat is a source of vexation. My face gets really oily and my pores open up, causing pesky blackheads and pimples. I also break out in hives around my jaw area, which can get really itchy.
Another annoying skin problem commonly caused by our hot weather is heat rash or what we call bungang araw.
The Prickly Problem of Prickly Heat
Prickly heat is a common skin condition in a tropical country like ours. It happens after a prolonged exposure to warm temperature. When the body is hot, the sweat glands activate. The sweat then cools the body as it evaporates.
Under hot temperatures, your body remains in a warm state, so your glands keep producing sweat. When you sweat more than usual, your sweat glands become overwhelmed. This can result in clogged sweat glands, trapping the sweat underneath the skin. The trapped sweat irritates your skin, which results in red bumps on the surface.
The symptoms of bungang araw are straightforward. Itchy, red bumps appear on the affected area. Heat rash isn’t a serious condition and usually goes away on its own, so you may not need to see the doctor. But scratching can irritate the blisters, which can cause swelling and abrasions.
The blisters can spread to other parts of your body if your temperature doesn’t cool down. But bungang araw isn’t infectious. This means you can’t get it from or pass it on to other people.
Treatments and Remedies
You have plenty of treatment options for bungang araw, ranging from simple methods to medication and home remedies. It depends on the itchiness and severity of your rash. Below are the available treatments for sweat rash.
Heat rash becomes more manageable when your body temperature cools down. Simply bathing in cold water can already ease the itchiness and redness of the rash. A bath will also unclog your sweat glands, which can reduce the swelling of your blisters. Dry your body thoroughly afterwards because wet skin can get easily irritated.
Cold compress is also great for bungang araw. Soak a washcloth in cold water or wrap ice with it, then press it against the affected area. This will ease the irritation associated with the sweat rash.
You also want to wear loose-fitting, sweat-wicking clothing to keep your skin cool. Remove sweaty clothes after a long day to prevent your sweat from getting trapped in your skin. Take a shower after a hot day to wash off the sweat from your body and change into a fresh set of clothes.
If these simple methods don’t work for you, you can head to the drugstore to buy some heat rash products.
Prickly Heat Products
The most common and accessible treatment for bungang araw is prickly heat powder. You can easily find it in your local pharmacy and grocery. Just sprinkle the powder on the bumps and it will relieve the itchiness.
Calamine lotion is also commonly used to treat prickly heat. It contains zinc oxide, which is known to soothe skin irritation and itchiness. Dab it onto your rash using a cotton pad.
If these products still aren’t effective, maybe you need something stronger. The following over-the-counter medication can be used for treating bungang araw.
Antihistamines, whether oral or topical, can also alleviate itching. If you’re giving it to your child, be sure to ask the pharmacist of your pediatrician about the best types or products for kids.
If antihistamine makes you sleepy, hydrocortisone cream is another OTC drug effective against sweat rash. Be sure to get a cream, not ointment, because the latter can clog your sweat glands.
Some common household ingredients can also be used to create ointments and remedies for bungang araw. If you have any of the following ingredients stocked in your home, use it to ease your heat rash.
Oatmeal is effective at easing a number of skin conditions, including bunging araw. Make a paste with 1 part oatmeal and 1 part water and apply it on your rashes.
If you have a bathtub at home, you can also draw yourself an oatmeal bath. Add 1 or 2 cups of oatmeal in a lukewarm bath and soak for at least 20 minutes. Make sure the water isn’t hot to avoid irritating your skin even more.
2. Baking soda
Baking soda is a popular home remedy for bungang araw. It’s probably what your mom or lola used when you were younger. Mix 3 to 5 tablespoons of baking soda to your bath and soak for 20 minutes.
Although baking soda is popularly used for skin itchiness, further research is still needed to prove this claim. The current studies on its effect on skin irritation show inconsistent results.
3. Aloe vera
Last is aloe vera, which is the new best friend of the modern Filipina. Aloe vera is known for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. You can squeeze the juice out of an aloe vera plant and apply it directly on your rashes. A tub of aloe vera gel, which you’re likely to have in your skincare collection, will work just as well.
Bungang araw affects people of all ages, but kids and babies are more susceptible to the rash. Their sweat glands are still sensitive, so they’re more likely to get clogged. Plus, a child’s body isn’t used to extreme temperatures yet, making them prone to bungang araw.
Bungang Araw on Babies and Kids
Infants and children commonly get prickly heat on the neck, face, armpits, crotch area, and other parts of the body that produces lots of sweat. Heat rash on babies aren’t harmful, but it can make them cranky because of the itchiness.
If you notice patches of red bumps on your child’s skin, check their clothing first. Are they wearing too many layers? Are their clothes too thick for the weather? Are their beddings too hot? Change them into a fresh set of loose, breathable clothing and replace their sheets if their bed or crib is already wet with sweat. Babies can sleep with only their nappies on to keep their skin cool.
Move them to a cool area to keep their temperature down. If the weather is extra hot, keep them in front of a fan or turn up the air conditioning to wick away their sweat.
Keep the affected dry to prevent the rash from getting worse. Regularly wipe away the sweat or rinse it off with cool water. Bathe your baby or child every day using lukewarm water. A cold bath is also helpful if they’re old enough.
If the itching becomes extreme, do not use any creams, lotions, and other oil-based products on your baby. These products are too thick for their delicate skin, which can irritate their rash further. Instead, mix a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water. Soak a towel in the mixture then rub it gently on your child’s rash. Soak it for 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing.
Keep your child well-hydrated. This means nursing breastfed babies a bit more than normal and making sure that kids have a cup of water within reach. Once they show symptoms of dehydration or if they’re running a fever, contact your pediatrician immediately.
As usual, prevention is much easier than cure.
- Avoid spending prolonged periods in hot and humid environments.
- Wipe away your sweat instead of letting it dry on your skin.
- Take regular baths or showers and avoid intense physical activity when the temperature’s too hot.
If you’re prickly heat doesn’t go away after a week and starts showing signs of infection, consult your dermatologist. The rash may be a symptom of another skin condition.
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