The People's Perspective on Medicine

Heat and Humidity Make Skin Itch

Most people think of dandruff and its flakes as a winter-time problem. Cold air and central heating are thought to dry out the skin and make the scalp flake.

But skin problems are not restricted to cold weather. This time of year, heat and humidity can also cause itchy scalp and all kinds of other irritating skin conditions. Seborrheic dermatitis, jock itch and athlete’s foot can all be bothersome when the temperature and humidity go through the roof.

What all these skin problems have in common is yeast. Most of the time, we live in harmony with a fungal organism called Malassezia. When it gets out of control or our immune systems react badly to it, the result can be itching, redness and inflammation.

Making the skin less hospitable for this yeast seems to help control the inflammation. Dermatologists frequently prescribe anti-fungal shampoos and creams (New England Journal of Medicine, Jan. 22, 2009). An over-the-counter product called Nizoral A-D shampoo contains ketoconazole and can be helpful for many people. There are also prescription-strength topical anti-fungal agents such as ciclopirox shampoo that can be effective.

Selenium sulfide shampoo (Selsun Blue), commonly marketed for dandruff, can also help to control redness and itching from yeast infections.

Despite the research backing these medications, people are not always satisfied with the results. Some turn to home remedies to ease their symptoms. There are no scientific studies to demonstrate that these approaches are effective, but many readers have found them helpful against itching and redness.

One of the most popular is old-fashioned amber Listerine. Many decades ago it was marketed for dandruff, but the FDA no longer permits that. The herbal oils in Listerine have anti-fungal action, though, and some people use Listerine to rinse an itchy scalp. Others apply it to the face for seborrheic dermatitis or to skin folds to relieve jock itch or other yeast infections.

One reader shared this story: “I was in Marine Corps boot camp and developed a bad case of jock itch. My drill instructor, although an extremely harsh and seemingly uncaring guy, had warned us all of this possibility and suggested using Listerine.

“It worked beautifully, and the rash cleared up in just two days. Old-fashioned amber Listerine does burn a bit going on, but it works well. It is also good for athlete’s foot.” Many others agree that soaking feet in Listerine or a combination of Listerine and white vinegar discourages athlete’s foot and toenail fungus.

Vicks VapoRub contains some of the same ingredients found in Listerine. When dabbed on itchy spots on the face, it may bring relief. So can Noxzema cleanser, which contains camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil.

Another remedy for dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis is milk of magnesia applied directly to the face or scalp. This too may help control fungus.

For more suggestions on dealing with dandruff, nail fungus and seborrheic dermatitis, we offer our Guide to Hair and Nail Care.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Now mid June & I have been scratching my face for 6 mos. Always had great skin but now disappearing. Vaseline no longer works for me. My skin is so dry now. (age 78) What to do. I don’t want to ruin my face but am heading that way. Thx. for your comments. Bonnie

Sounds like many of you have seasonal allergies to pollen, molds, and maybe products you are working around.
One thought on the itchy scalp. Home remedy would be to dilute 1/4 – 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (depending on thickness of hair) mix with equal parts water and use as final rinse on scalp and hair after washing. The smell will disappear when dry and apple cider vinegar will balance the pH level and has antiseptic properties. Added plus makes hair shine.

I’m 15 years old and I have been working on roofing with my dad and before working with my dad I kept being itchy and have grown a rash on my upper body chest area and on the side of my thighs. But now since I started working with my dad I feel like it’s gotten worse, I take cold showers and put lotion on my skin and I put cream for my rash but it doesn’t work, can anybody help?

Hello I do have every summer fall and spring skin issue. I have visited many doctors nobody did not give me yet that take care of my problem . I am dealing with this over 20 years.what I do feel as soon as too high humidity outside my skin start itching when go out. even worse on summer when is hot and humid it drive me nuts .
I do not see anything on skin but it etching so mutch upper body that I am screeching making sometimes bleeding my skin. if any body know any help for this please send to my email. I would appreciates.

Same here! However, not to such a degree. Any remodel found?

Use dehumidifier to control humidity. Too much can cause dermatitis, itchy, hair loss I have been suffering from dermatitis on my scalp and hair loss due to high Humidity. You can find dehumidfier at Home Depot, Walmart online make sure to get at least 70 pint for your home also it would prevent even mold in your home from growing. Hope this helps you.

I am a male in my mid-sixties. Every Summer, for as long as I can remember, when the weather gets nice and warm (the way I like it) – I get sick. I feel just like I am drunk – equilibrium is poor, inner ears act just like going too high during air travel, without equalizing pressure. I get achy, stiff, very tired and weak. I don’t have to be outside to get the symptoms, but it is debilitating. The temp here in the Pacific NW is usually in the 70 to 90 degree range in Summertime. Medical professionals shrug it off as being (my imagination). Anyone else have these symptoms, or any info about what to do with it?

I feel I have the exact same issues. What was your diagnosis from your doctor?

I have a condition that almost led to misdiagnosis of diabetes. In extreme temp changes, especially, cold to hot, my skin would get a prickly itch all over. It is mostly isolated to my face, shoulders, legs and back. It would feel like little pins sticking me intensely to the point I had to scratch. I don’t get hives, just red splotches from where I would scratch. When it started happening with my scalp I got scared. No dandruff but it bothered me.
I took the advice of my primary care physician and changed my diet. I cut back on high level caffeine drinks. I replaced them with juices and drinks high in electrolytes like gatorade and powerade. Yet mainly water. More green leafy veggies and less, MUCH LESS, carbs. I started also exercising and forcing myself to sweat through physical activity.
So far in the past 3 years I have had minimal to no problems with my flare ups. Only when it is really really hot outside. I wear my hair down for air circulation on my scalp but carry a scrunchy to put it up when my neck sweats.
Last but not least SHOWERS. If you take really hot showers be careful. Try lowering the temp of your water. And using an antibacterial soap. Dial, Dove with no fragrances, or Nuetrogena (the clear orange bar) . I hope this helps.

Baby powder (talcum powder) cleared up the seborrheic dermatitis on my face in a couple of weeks. I had it for years, tried everything, would never go away for more than a day. Talc did the trick.

I just started getting this about 3 months ago – has happened 4 times . I took a cheap allergy pill with antihistamines and it goes away . I am 70 and it has just started

If Listerine doesn’t work for seborrheic dermatitis, you might try cornstarch. I actually am using cornstarch with aloe, a baby powder. Went to three doctors, first two diagnosed as tinea (jock itch). Dermatologist diagnosed seb derm. Went thru many doctor visits, shots, hundreds of dollars worth of medication like Nizoral, Desodine, ad infinitum…..and that was hundreds of dollars worth of medicine paying my 20%…insurance company was paying 80%
My seb derm was in groin, front of legs, back of legs, buttocks. Had it for over a year and it would heal up for a day, then come back with a vengeance
My guess is cornstarch dries everything up. I must sweat more than most people in the groin buttocks area. After four days, seb derm is almost 100% gone and has been gone since day 2. I am amazed at the results of baby powder (which is almost 100% cornstarch, at least the one I bought)

1.Are you sensitive or allergic to (cloths) washing soap or some other product?? you should check for allergies. 2. may be is a medicine you are taking (that happened to me with a drug I was taking and I was allergic to).

I have very itchy skin I itch at night and during the day. I have itches so bad that I have sores and scabs all over my arms and neck areas. Is this a blood or reaction of some kind or just nerves? Thank you Kathy

Has anyone ever become allergic to the Sun, I have and now I can’t go out in the sun without burning. It looks just like a sunburn but it itches and hurts. I think one of my medicines may have caused it, but the pharmacist said he doesn’t think so. I could use some help.
People’s Pharmacy response: There are quite a few medicines that can contribute to sun sensitivity.

I want to find out more about Listerine for seborrheic dermatitis on scalp and some on forehead. My brother is suffering this condition. Like Rachel C was asking, I’d like to get how long and how to apply amber Listerine. Thank you!

I want to try the Listerine for the seborrheic dermatitis on my scalp. But I want clarification–do I need to rinse as part of regular shampooing routine, or use it in the evening for overnight? If I do a rinse, how long do you recommend I leave it on, and will there be any side effects like extra hair loss, etc? Same questions for the MoM. Do I put it on at night and wash away in the morning when shampooing my hair?
People’s Pharmacy response: Rinse as part of your shampoo routine. Leave it on at least 5 minutes, then you can rinse it out. We’ve not heard of hair loss resulting from Listerine.
For the MoM, apply it to the skin in the evening and wash it off in the morning.

I had a severe case of athlete’s foot with cracked heels and a toe nail fungus. My Doc told me to use Vick’s Vapor Rub and I thought he was crazy but it works!! I slathered it on nightly and put on sock’s in about a week I noticed the itch was gone and my calluses where softening up. In about 3 week’s it was complete cured. My fungus nail was growing out nice and my feet where nice and smooth. If you can stand the smell and people asking you if your have a cold LOL it really is the best thing I have found (many years of searching)!!

I had a large Old English Sheepdog. She developed some kind of fungus on her paws especially around the cuticles. After seeing the Vet and trying small expensive tubes of various ointments, they said she might have to be put down! One evening my husband was applying Absorbine to his toes, I grabbed it and put it on my dog’s toenails. Next day A.M. her toenails were free of any sign of a fungus! Truly a miracle.

I think someone said that vicks vaporub helped with that. If you check the list of topics you can probably find something.

Skin tags have been driving me crazy all summer. They are irritating and make this heat miserable! Do you have a home cure for them other than cutting them off?

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