Why heat makes you itch
An itch, besides being an irresistible sensation, is one of the main symptoms of an inflammatory skin disease. Yet scratching only makes the problem worse. Warm weather doesn’t help either — it is well known that heat exacerbates itching, however, little is known about the underlying biology.
Now, a team of researchers led by dermatologist Hiroyuki Murota of Osaka University in Japan, and including dermatologist Mustafa Abd El-Latif at Cairo University, has determined the mechanism by which heat worsens an itch.
First, they treated fibroblasts, or connective tissue cells, in culture with various chemicals linked to itching and pain, and measured gene expression in the cells. The neuropeptide substance P caused the cells to express a growth factor called artemin.
Next, the team examined sections of skin taken from patients with atopic dermatitis, a chronic skin condition characterised by scaly and itchy rashes. This revealed that artemin-expressing fibroblasts accumulate in the lesions.
They then injected artemin or substance P into the skin of healthy mice and found that both induced branching of itch-sensing nerve fibres under the surface of skin, causing the mice to become hypersensitive to warm temperatures.
This suggested to the researchers that artemin is somehow involved in temperature-dependent hypersensitivity. To confirm these findings, they performed behavioural tests on mutant mice lacking the artemin receptor, and found that heat doesn’t make the itch worse.
“We are now investigating how artemin sensitizes the nervous system and leads to thermal hyperalgesia,” says Murota. “We believe that this might provide some idea to develop novel therapeutic strategies. Topical artemin-neutralization might be one of the treatment strategies to attenuate warmth-provoked itch.”
Why does my whole body start to itch when I’m in the sun?
It sounds like hives.
Body heat and sweating that is generated from exposure to the sun, exercise, hot baths, spicy foods, emotion, or other sources can lead to cholinergic urticaria (hives).
The skin becomes itchy or may have a burning sensation as your body heat rises and you sweat. Episodes usually last 30 to 60 minutes. Headache, abdominal cramping, and other symptoms may happen in severe cases.
This condition is more common in people with allergies, eczema, and asthma, but people without these conditions can have hives, too.
The reaction is caused when the skin’s mast cells release histamine. An itchy heat rash may appear as reddened skin.
To avoid hives, you have to stay out of the sun, wear cool clothing, and avoid other factors that raise your body temperature. An antihistamine taken my mouth can be helpful.
Cholinergic urticaria is a type of physical urticaria caused by factors in the environment, such as cold temperatures, pressure, and exposure to water. A person may react to only one factor or to several.
A rare form of hives, called “solar urticaria” can appear just from being exposed to light. This is an allergic reaction with sudden itching and hives. It happens in areas of the skin exposed to the sun, even under thin clothing. In rare cases, the tongue or lip may swell. Headache and nausea are also rare.
Some medications and medical conditions can cause itching and hives with or without any heat or sun exposure. Your doctor can diagnose, suggest treatment options, and make sure there are no other underlying causes.
What is itching?
Itching is an irritating sensation that makes you want to scratch your skin. Sometimes it can feel like pain, but it is different. Often, you feel itchy in one area in your body, but sometimes you may feel itching all over. Along with the itching, you may also have a rash or hives.
What causes itching?
Itching is a symptom of many health conditions. Some common causes are
- Allergic reactions to food, insect bites, pollen, and medicines
- Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and dry skin
- Irritating chemicals, cosmetics, and other substances
- Parasites such as pinworms, scabies, head and body lice
- Liver, kidney, or thyroid diseases
- Certain cancers or cancer treatments
- Diseases that can affect the nervous system, such as diabetes and shingles
What are the treatments for itching?
Most itching is not serious. To feel better, you could try
- Applying cold compresses
- Using moisturizing lotions
- Taking lukewarm or oatmeal baths
- Using over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or antihistamines
- Avoiding scratching, wearing irritating fabrics, and exposure to high heat and humidity
Contact your health care provider if your itching is severe, does not go away after a few weeks, or does not have an apparent cause. You may need other treatments, such as medicines or light therapy. If you have an underlying disease that is causing the itching, treating that disease may help.
Are you one of the many women who experience an itchy scalp after working out? The cause of the itchiness varies but you should not worry about it as it is common, normal and natural.
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It is, however, annoying when you have to scratch your freshly-braided or retouched hair. The itch is sometimes so intense that you end up with sores on your scalp.
What causes the itch?
When you exercise, your scalp sweats, just like any other part of your body only that the scalp sweats more than most parts of the body. When you sweat, the pores open up and let out oil, salt, fat and water — the sweat. The more you work out, the more you sweat. The sweat reacts with the natural bacteria on your scalp, leading to the itch.
The itchiness develops during the workout, but affects you after the session when the scalp dries a bit and the sweat settles down with the bacteria, fat, salt and oils.
In a typical situation, one sweats during a workout and has a shower afterwards but the scalp is hardly washed. The constant scratching eventually causes thinning and breakage of hair from the roots.
There are ways in which you can relieve the itch.
• To alleviate the itch and avoid scratching, use lightweight products with antiseptic and/or clarifying properties.
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• You could also wipe the sweat as much as you can the moment the scalp starts itching. Use a soft towel to soak in as much sweat as possible, working especially on the roots in a gentle way. It may not give total relief but the sensation will be bearable.
• Exercise-induced scalp sweating can also occur if you eat certain foods and your immune system responds negatively. Get the problem diagnosed.
• Always ensure your scalp is clean and free of bacteria. Regular moisturizing is important. Wash your scalp regularly with an appropriate shampoo. An anti-bacterial shampoo or conditioner will be great for cleansing the scalp and unblocking the pores.
• Tea tree oil has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Mix it with your regular hair oil and apply on the scalp. You will notice a slight tingling and refreshed feeling minutes after applying. Wash your hands after handling tea tree oil.
• Lemon juice contains antiseptic properties and can be used on the scalp to kill bacteria and treat itchy scalp. Add a few drops of fresh juice to your hair oil and apply on the scalp using a cotton ball.
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What Is Causing Your Itchy Scalp?
Is itchy ever a good thing? The answer has to be never. And when it comes to your scalp, this kind of irritation is often accompanied by embarrassing flakes. Here, skin and scalp experts explain what could be causing your scalp to itch.
The Usual Itchy-Scalp Suspects
Dandruff is the most common culprit to blame for an itchy scalp. “The medical condition of dandruff is caused by an overgrowth of yeast,” says Jessica Wu, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California Medical School and the author of Feed Your Face. The yeast normally live on your scalp and in other hairy areas, such as the eyebrows, the ears, and men’s beards. “With changes in body chemistry, the yeast overgrow and feed on your dead skin cells and oils,” says Dr. Wu, “which causes the itching and flaking.”
To properly control dandruff, you need to eliminate its fungal component without creating more irritation and redness, says Ilyse Lefkowicz, M.D., a dermatologist for Head & Shoulders North America.
For mild cases, Wu suggests using an over-the-counter shampoo that contains selenium, zinc pyrithione, or tea tree oil, all of which help control yeast. “If your scalp is not itchy but more flaky, then try a salicylic acid shampoo to reduce buildup,” she says. More stubborn cases may require a prescription antifungal shampoo or cortisone foam, or, for especially severe cases, anti-yeast pills, Wu says.
Scalp itch can also result from trips to the hair salon, says cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson, vice president of research and innovation for Englewood Lab. “Repeated chemical hair treatments like permanent color, relaxers, and keratin treatments can sap your scalp of moisture,” she says.
Another culprit could be a daily blow-drying habit, says Dr. Lefkowicz. The excessive heat can irritate and dry out the scalp. “Avoid using the hair dryer at its hottest setting, especially when hair is very wet,” she says. “That’s actually the hair’s most fragile state.”
An itchy scalp can also be an allergic reaction to certain hair products, says Wu. “Some products, such as hair sprays, contain ingredients that tighten as they dry,” she says. “This causes a slight pulling sensation on the scalp, leading to itchiness.”
Don’t Scratch — Moisturize Instead
Sometimes the root of the problem is environmental, Lefkowicz says. “Other factors that contribute to scalp irritations include exposure to cool environments with low humidity, and the effects of wind and sun.”
According to Lefkowicz, the way back to a healthy scalp (and healthy, shiny hair) begins with upping the moisture. Avoid hot water when washing your hair, she says, because it can strip the natural oils from your scalp, making it very dry and sensitive.
“Look for moisturizing and protective ingredients like dimethicone, a silicone compound that smooths the hair surface, making it shiny,” Lefkowicz says. She also recommends using a good conditioner to soothe the scalp and leave hair moisturized.
When to Worry About an Itchy Scalp
Sometimes an itchy scalp can be a red flag signaling other, more serious medical conditions. If your scalp develops thick, scaly patches that hurt, crack, or bleed, Wu says, you may have psoriasis — a chronic autoimmune disease that appears on the skin. If, along with the itchiness, your hair is falling out or breaking, you may have ringworm. If any oozing occurs, or a crust develops or pus appears on the scalp, you could be suffering from a staph infection. Your safest bet is to consult your doctor with any concerns about an itchy scalp.
Contact dermatitis: This itchy rash is caused by a reaction to something touching your skin. You may have to do some detective work to figure out where it’s coming from. It could be the metals in your jewelry or the chemicals in cosmetics, toiletries, and cleaning products. Poison ivy is also a form of contact dermatitis. Stop using or wearing whatever you think might be the cause and see if the itching gets better. See a photo of what a poisonous plant rash looks like.
Is It Beneath the Surface?
Your skin may let you know when something is not quite right inside your body. This itch can be a symptom of deeper problems.
Hives: You get them from allergies. They look like raised welts that show up alone or in clusters, and they are usually itchy. Stress, heat, exercise, or exposure to the sun can also bring them out. See a photo of what hives look like.
Psoriasis: It makes your body overproduce skin cells, which pile up in itchy, inflamed patches on the skin’s surface. This is a result of an overactive immune system. See a photo of what psoriasis looks like.
Pregnancy: More than 1 in 10 pregnant women say itching is a problem. The reasons range from harmless rashes to more serious conditions. Learn more about skin conditions in pregnancy.
Medications: Some may make your skin itch, even with no signs of a rash or irritation. Check with your doctor if the itch becomes too uncomfortable. These drugs are known to make you start scratching.
- Certain high blood pressure drugs called ACE inhibitors
- Allopurinol for gout
- Amiodarone for heart rhythm problems
- Pills called diuretics that relieve bloating
- Hydroxyethyl cellulose (used during surgery)
- Prescription pain drugs called opioids
- Simvastatin for high cholesterol
- Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium
Is It Related to Your Nerves?
Your nervous system can get confused when it’s sick and accidentally tell the nerves on the skin to start itching when there’s nothing there to cause it. There is no rash. But your skin may appear irritated if you’ve been scratching a lot. You can get it from:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Brain tumor
- Nerve damage
If you have mild dandruff because your scalp is greasy or oily, you may just try a regular, gentle shampoo.
If that doesn’t help, some shampoos are made to control dandruff. They may have zinc pyrithione (Head & Shoulders, Free & Clear), coal tar (Neutrogena T/Gel), salicylic acid (Neutrogena T/Sal), selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue), or ketoconazole (Nizoral). Tea tree oil is an alternative treatment for dandruff. Follow the directions on the shampoo bottle.
Your doctor or pharmacist can point you to the right shampoo for you. You also can get a prescription dandruff product if over-the-counter shampoos don’t stop your itch and flakes.
Coal tar and salicylic acid shampoos or scalp treatments may also help with mild scalp psoriasis.
Topical creams, ointments, and foams like the following can slow psoriasis skin buildup and ease red, scaly patches on your scalp. They may have vitamins or steroids to calm the inflammation:
- Anthralin (Zithranol-RR)
- Calcipotriene (Dovonex)
- Calcipotriene and betamethasone dipropionate (Taclonex)
- Calcitriol (Vectical)
- Tazarotene (Tazorac)
Your doctor can also put steroids (strong anti-inflammatory drugs) into the patches on your scalp if your psoriasis is milder or just in a few spots. If you have severe psoriasis, you may need stronger drugs. These include methotrexate, which affects how certain cells grow; cyclosporine, which slows down your immune system; biologics, which target specific areas of your immune system; or oral retinoids, which are high doses of vitamin A.
You can also try ultraviolet or UV light treatments to control your psoriasis patches. You can part your hair in rows so UV light from a special lamp can reach your scalp or use a handheld UV comb that beams the light directly to your scalp.
Dandruff (Oily and Wet) and Its Management With Ayurveda
Darunak or commonly known as dandruff, is a disorder that affects the scalp. Dandruff causes white, dry flakes of dead skin cells to shed from the scalp. Although dandruff rarely causes baldness and hair loss, the itchiness of this condition may most certainly be a cause of concern. If white flakes persist for a long time, the person may experience symptoms of seborrhea, psoriasis, or eczema. According to Ayurveda, Darunak is a Vatakapha predominant tridoshaj disease. According to Acharya ‘Sushrut’, Madhav’ and Yogratnakar’, Darunak have symptoms like Itching, White scales like structures, Dryness in the scalp. Along with aforesaid symptoms of Acharya Vagbhatta also considered Hair loss and Numbness of scalp. The Adhisthan (place of origin) of this disease is the keshbhumi (Scalp).
Over time, proponents of Ayurveda have conducted various researches on this disease, trying to find out an effective solution when it comes to dandruff related problems.
Prolonged Treatment for Wet or Oily dandruff:
The scalp skin produces sebum (Kapha), which is an oily substance. This sebum helps in keeping your scalp and hair hydrated. It is a natural process, without which your hair may turn dry and frizzy. However, when this sebum (kapha) is over produced due to certain reasons, you may suffer from problems of the scalp. Over production of sebum (kapha) causes oily scales to appear on the scalp, which may cause severe itching and may also result in infection. Therefore, wet dandruff requires prolonged treatment, whereas it is easier to treat dry dandruff.
Impurity in the blood:
According to Ayurvedic system of medicine, dry dandruff is caused because of ‘Vata Pradhan Kapha dosha’. On the other hand, wet dandruff is caused because of ‘Kapha Pradhan Vata dosha’. As per Acharya Videha Pitta and Kapha are involved in causing darunak i.e. Dandruff. The vitiation of Vata and Pitta in the body leads to vitiation of Raktadhatu(blood) thus giving rise to impurities in the blood. This in turn leads to poor nourishment of the scalp. In such cases, detoxification of blood is also required to get rid of dandruff.
Ayurveda places the problem of dandruff in the category of Shudra Roga, which appears due to an imbalance of all three doshas (Ayurvedic humor). The primary doshas involved are Kapha and Vata.Kapha is an Ayurvedic humor which symbolizes Softness, Stickiness, provides nourishment & lubrication. Vata is dry and rough in nature. In an aggravated state, both doshas as per their predominance cause the production of specific impurities in scalp, which are dry and sticky in nature. These impurities accumulate in the deep tissues of the scalp and contaminate them. Contamination of the deep tissues and aggravated Vata-Kapha Dosha causes itching and flaky patches on the scalp. Due to these factors, the scalp sheds larger than normal amounts of dead epidermal cells, which leads to the problem of dandruff.
The Ayurvedic line of treatment is to generally pacify Kapha and Vata through herbal medicines, as well as a tailor-made diet and lifestyle plan. Also, special herbs are administered to cleanse the body of accumulated digestive impurities.
The Ayurvedic system of treatment for wet or oily dandruff, in particular, is briefly mentioned here:
- According to Ayurveda, dandruff could be caused due to prolonged intake of cold water, Excessive usage of foods that taste salty, Chronic Rhinitis, Irregular Sleeping Habits, Excessive Exposure to UV of sun, Suppressing Natural Urges, Excessive consumption of alcohol, Excessive sweating , Improper maintenance of Hair and using very less or no hair oil for massaging Head and Scalp.
- Ayurveda suggests both topical and internal medicines for the treatment of wet or oily dandruff. The topical medicines are intended to manage dandruff and also provide relief from itching and infection, if any. The internal medicines are intended to detox the blood and also improve immunity, nourish the skin and thereby help in improving the quality of hair.
- If dandruff is caused due to psoriasis and eczema, then there are exclusive medicines to combat the infection, detox the body and nourish the skin and hair.
- Ayurveda suggests that foods like coconut, Indian gooseberry ( Amla), Raisins etc. help in preventing dandruff.
- In addition to these, Ayurveda also suggests various home remedies for effective management of both wet and dry dandruff, like washing your hair with decoction prepared with Neem Leaves or Take powder of Mustard seeds and licorice, make them into paste by adding milk to it and leave it on head for 20min and wash later with water.
- Taking Panchkarama detoxification procedures like Nasyam, Raktamokshnam, Shirobasti, Abhyanga Swedanam under the guidance of expert can also play very important role in the management of both the types of dandruff.
- Accumulated hair and dandruff scales can be made returned to the healthy scalp from unclean combs and brushes. This may irritate the scalp and causes flare of dandruff again. Combs and brushes are the tools for the care of your hair; they should be properly made and well cared to accomplish this purpose. Neem wood combs can work wonder but they should also be regularly cleaned and changed every six months. It can be easily deduced that wet dandruff can be effectively managed and treated by undergoing treatment under Ayurvedic system of medicines.
However, you should avail such treatment under the supervision of an experienced doctor specialized in Ayurvedic medical science.
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I am lucky that my scalp hardly itches. In fact, if it were possible, I could stay with braids for three months or more, but for hygiene. Some women are, however, not as lucky and the longest they can stay in cornrows or braids is two weeks because the scalp itches a lot.
Do you always have the urge to itch the scalp? Unless you have a medical condition that causes it, an itchy scalp can be solved rather easily. It would be good to know the cause of the itching for you to be able to get rid of it. Here are some reasons:
Dandruff: Your scalp will definitely itch if you have dandruff. When the flakes sit on your scalp, they accumulate dirt and grime, which causes the scalp to itch further. When the scalp has dandruff, it is either too dry or too greasy, hence the itchiness.
The solution is to get rid of the white flakes. Over-the-counter shampoos that contain selenium, zinc pyrithione, or tea tree oil, will help control dandruff. If your case is stubborn, a doctor’s prescription for anti-fungal will be a good remedy.
Dry scalp: If you have a dry scalp, be prepared for itchiness. A dry scalp lacks moisture causing it to be rough and scaly. To get rid of this problem, you must first address the dry scalp. The scalp might just be thirsty and need some natural oil.
Massaging your scalp with oil or apple cider vinegar will reduce the dryness and itchiness. If you are one of those who have naturally dry scalps, then you must always ensure that you keep it moisturised at all times. It would also be prudent to avoid washing your hair with hot water as it can strip your scalp of natural oils.
Greasy scalp: It’s not only dry scalp that can be itchy. If you have a greasy scalp, be prepared to scratch your head. The greasy scalp will itch because it is an accumulation of sweat, oil and dirt. Use a mild shampoo to wash your hair often to reduce the itchiness.
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Hair products: Women who have elaborate haircare routine are more likely to have itchy scalps. With the many products going to the hair, like repeated relaxers or colour, one is likely to react to some. The build-up of these products may also cause itchiness.
Shampooing the hair without proper rinsing, for example, will cause itchiness since the shampoo will settle on the scalp and irritate it. Styling products like gels, mousse and sprays, among others can also cause itchiness if used a lot.
Some people are also allergic to certain hair products; it gets worse if the hair is braided. Did you know that you may also react to synthetic hair piece or weaves? If you do, it would be good to settle for a higher quality brand of braids or weaves.
Infection: The itchiness may also be caused by an infection on the scalp. It could be a skin condition that extends to the scalp too. Visit a dermatologist to determine the real problem once they examine your scalp. It could be dermatitis, eczema or a different skin condition.
Shampooing: Not every woman will want to shampoo their hair on a weekly basis because it is likely to mess their hairstyle or even an expensive affair.
Lack of shampooing is also a likely cause of itchiness. Your scalp, however, needs regular shampooing even when it is braided. It is possible to shampoo the scalp without messing your hair.
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