An older woman hikes through the forest, wiping sweat from her brow as patches of eczema inflame on her moist skin.

Heat, Perspiration and Eczema

Does perspiration affect your atopic dermatitis? It has more effect on me than I ever thought possible.

Allergens, sweat, and an itchy red rash

Some time ago, one of my friends in our wonderful women’s walking group questioned me after a strenuous hike, asking if I was alright, as my face was quite red. I think she was worried about heat exhaustion. Most in the group already knew about my battle with eczema, but this long time caregiver must have “missed the memo.” I explained my atopic dermatitis and how my face was slightly inflamed probably from recent exposure to one of my many allergens. But then to add to the problem, if my face perspires even a little, it immediately would blossom into this burning, red, itchy mess.

Not face eczema!

Sweat had not been a problem before, but now my face was paying for every struggle with heat or exercise. I was reaching desperation. When this started, it would always cause a flare that lasted for what seemed like forever. A face full of eczema is not what I want to present to the world!

Sleeping with eczema on my face

Sleeping when my face was so uncomfortable had become a nightmare. When I did sleep, I often woke with scratches on my face and blood on the pillowcase.

Blocking sweat glands with vaseline

A couple of years ago I had discussed this with my family doctor to find out if there was any way of preventing or stopping this intense red itchiness. His suggestion was to put a large amount of Vaseline on my forehead and upper lip, where I normally perspire, to try and block the sweat glands. If you’re thinking of trying this, it doesn’t work too well.

My allergist's suggestion

I happened to be going for an allergy shot after a particularly bad flare, so I asked my allergist the same question. This elicited a different and surprisingly effective response. She gave me a sample of mild cortisone cream to carry with me whenever I went out. Her instructions were to put it on immediately when I started to perspire.

My concerns about using cortisone

I was concerned about using cortisone on the more sensitive skin of my face, even if only on the forehead and upper lip. She said such a mild one wouldn’t do any damage, and it hasn’t.

Cortisone, sweat, and face eczema

I still perspire a bit when I use it, but for some unknown reason, it doesn’t burn or itch the way it used to. But the biggest relief is the fact it doesn’t affect my life for weeks afterward.

Staying hydrated

Another of her recommendations was to drink more water, especially before a long hike in the summer heat. This would help to make any resulting sweat less irritating. But if the hike is in a place with no restrooms, that’s not always the best idea.

Lessening face discomfort

Her help has made a big difference in my quality of life. I can continue on for coffee after our walks without suffering from that stinging itch. For the most part, I can hike on the warmest days with very little, if any, discomfort. At least as far as my face is concerned. Muscles and lungs are another matter entirely.

This doesn’t always work, and I still haven’t been able to discover why it works better at some times than others, but I’ll take it; it’s never as bad as it used to be.

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