Why is my body itchy?

Dear Doctor,

For the last five days, when it is really warm, my skin itches a lot. Is it something I should be concerned about?


Dear Salma

Is the itching present all over your body or it is localised to moist parts like hands, underarms, thighs, etc.?  Is there associated rash and or eruptions? Does the itching subside and you feel comfortable after moving to a cool place?

One can get itching due to dry skin. Dryness of the skin can occur in hot, dry weather. It can occur even after exposure to dust. Hot showers, use of soaps with harsh chemicals also dry the skin, making it feel itchy. Exposure to hot sun can cause itching along with redness and or rashes over the exposed body parts. Medical conditions like hypothyroidism, vitamin B complex deficiency, cause a dry skin, which can become itchy in hot weather.

There may be allergy to some body-care products like deodorant or sunscreen applied before moving out in the hot weather. This can cause generalised itching or localised to the part where the implicated body care product has been used. 

Itching along with urticarial rashes can occur after sweating, as after a workout or being out in hot weather, what is known as cholinergic urticaria. This occurs due to irritation of the nerve endings by neuro–chemicals released during the workout,   resulting in itching. People with tendency for allergy as cases of asthma are more likely to develop cholinergic urticaria. There may be accompanying wheezing or sneezing or running of nose in these vulnerable people. Anti-allergy drugs can help in such situations.

Fungal spores can grow and multiply in moist areas of the body, causing itching. This is aggravated when sweating occurs due to exposure to hot weather. If fungal infection persists it can spread to other parts, extending over limbs and trunk. Individuals with uncontrolled diabetes and other immune depressed conditions like HIV infection, are more susceptible to develop severe and extensive fungal infection. These are curable by anti-fungal drugs.  

Tight body hugging clothes and nylon clothes cause excess sweating in hot weather and can induce itching and even aggravate it, if present due to other causes. Obesity increases risk of sweating and even fungal infections, thus, becomes a cause for itching, when out in hot weather.

Try keeping the skin moist by applying a suitable moisturising lotion, when the skin is damp after a wash or shower. Avoid use of hot water for shower. Also avoid body-care products with harsh chemicals. When in hot climate, use lose, comfortable, cotton clothes. Use of astringent lotion locally, helps to reduce itching.

A balanced diet containing abundant vitamin B complex and vitamin E, keeping healthy body weight via diet and exercise are lifestyle measures that would be useful.                                

 Dr. Rachna   Pande is a specialist in internal medicine. 

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