For a stress-free summer

Follow these simple self-help remedies to combat ailments this summer.

Lady drinking waterEach one of us has different associations with summertime. For some its exams, ice creams and vacations, while for others it is sweat drenched clothes, prickly heat and itchy eyes. While we cannot do much about the soaring temperatures than sitting in air conditioned rooms and sipping iced tea, here’s a list of self-help remedies for most of the summer ailments that we may face.

Prickly heat

Characterised by tiny red bumps or blisters on the covered areas of the skin, this is caused when the sweat glands are blocked by dead skin, sticky sweat or bacterial debris. The intense itching may be also felt like a prickly sensation.

What can you do?

Dress in soft, lightweight cotton clothes. Avoiding the outdoors when the temperatures are at their peak can help. Resist the urge to scratch the inflamed areas as it could lead to infection. Ward off the urge by applying a cold sponge or soft cotton cloth to the itchy parts.

Calamine lotions or lotions that have oatmeal as one of the constituents can provide soothing relief. Lying in an oatmeal bath can also sooth the prickly symptoms. Do not use powders, oil-based creams and moisturisers as they tend to further block the pores. Applying a paste of pure sandalwood powder or multani mitti with rose water to the affected areas before a bath, and washing it off with cold water is a known remedy.


Sunburns are caused due to overexposure to ultraviolet rays, especially in open sunny areas like beaches, without taking adequate protection of clothes, hats and sunscreen. The burnt skin is red, warm and painful to touch.

What can you do?

Take a cool shower or soak a soft cotton cloth in cold water and use it to dab the affected areas. Salt from sea water can cause further burning, so take care to wash it off thoroughly. Apply a sunscreen to the affected parts, except where skin is raw and stay out of the sun, while the burns are healing. A mild water-based moisturiser can be used to prevent itching. Essential oils like chamomile or lavender oil are known to provide relief. Add a few drops to the bath, and soak for 15 minutes or so.

Heat headaches

Increasing body temperatures in summers can lead to headaches due to generalised dilation of blood vessels in the body. This when combined with other activities that increase body heat, such as intense physical activity or a hot bath, tend to increase the frequency.

What can you do?

Once you realise that your headaches get triggered off when out in the sun or when the mercury soars, it is best to avoid outdoor activities when sun is at peak. If you have to step out, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Loose fitting cotton clothes allow the body to cool off well. A wide brimmed hat or an umbrella helps to avoid direct sun rays.

To treat a heat-induced headache, drink lots of cold water and get into cooler spaces. Apply a cold compress with an ice pack or a bag of frozen veggies on the head. Loosen out any tight clothing. Consult a doctor if the pain gets unbearable.

Cramps, heat exhaustion, heat strokes

These are more common in areas where the temperatures rise above 40oC. Heat cramps are mainly involuntary muscle spasms that occur after/during a bout of heavy exercise without adequate fluid intake, in hot weather. Heat exhaustion can range from mild heat cramps to a life threatening heat stroke. Some symptoms include feeling faint, heavy sweating, queasiness, low BP, headache.

Heatstroke is an almost fatal condition. Body temperature above 104 F is the main sign with a rapid, shallow breathing and the pulse may go well over 130 beats per minute. The very young and the elderly are more susceptible to heat strokes.

What can you do?

For heat cramps, rest immediately and cool off. Drink an electrolyte rich sports drink or a fresh fruit juice with a pinch of salt. Gently stretch and massage the affected area to relieve the cramp. If not relieved, see your doctor.

For someone suffering with heat exhaustion, immediately remove the person to air conditioned/cooler surroundings and give cool water to drink. Loosen clothing, spray or sponge with cold water after laying the person down with legs elevated.


Allergic conjunctivitis is more common in children. This is characterised by severe itching in both eyes, with a thick mucous discharge and it may start with the onset of warmer weather. It tends to occur every year around the same season until the age of 11-12 years.

Stye is an infection that occurs near the follicle of an eyelash when its opening is blocked by secretions. It can be painful but is not contagious. Increase in dust and pollen in the air when the temperature rises, causes bacterial conjunctivitis [pink eye] which is contagious.

What can you do?

For allergic eye conditions, bathe the eye with boiled and cooled water, using a fresh sterilized piece of gauze for each eye. Try not to scratch or rub the eyes, and avoid all irritants like smoke, contact lens and make-up.

Anti-allergic eye drops provide instant relief, but these should be used in consultation with your doctor.

For mild infectious conjunctivitis, anti-bacterial eye drops are useful. Before using the drops, it helps to clear out discharges with soaked sterile gauze pieces.

Food-borne ailments

It is easier to get food-borne infections at this time of the year, when you indulge in your favourite street food. Cases of typhoid, hepatitis A and E [jaundice] as well as cholera are found increasingly in the summer months in India. Vaccines for typhoid and hepatitis A provide reasonable protection, and are especially useful in children.

What can you do?

Take your food and water hygiene seriously. Do not neglect or self-medicate symptoms like vomiting or loose motions, Your refrigerator should be kept at lower than 5oC. Chilled food needs to be stored below this temperature, and hot foods need to be kept at a temperature of 60?C. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling food and use separate cutting boards/knives for handing meat and vegetables.

Swimming pool care

While it is fun to cool off in the pool, do not forget to use a water-proof sunscreen before getting into the pool. The other danger is of disease outbreaks, when sufficient pool hygiene is not maintained by other members. To protect others, people who have had diarrhoea should wait at least a week until after symptoms have completely subsided before using the pool. Also, it is important to confirm with the pool authorities that additional measures are being taken for cleanliness and maintenance of pool filters.

While summer in our country can be fierce and uncomfortable, taking good care of our health will help us enjoy the mango bounty and the ice creams and it won’t be that bad after all!


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