Q. Last summer, I developed a skin infection under my breasts, which are rather heavy. My doctor said it was a yeast infection and treated it with some creams. It cleared up.
She said it was caused by heat and moisture trapped between the folds of skin.
Is there anything I can do to prevent this condition from coming back this summer?
A. It sounds like you're describing what doctors call intertrigo. This term comes from the Latin and means "to rub between." It refers to a skin condition that occurs when folds of skin trap heat and moisture and rub together. The friction irritates the skin, which becomes invaded by the bacteria and yeast that normally live on it.
Intertrigo looks like a red or brown rash in the creases of skin folds. It may burn or itch. This skin problem most often affects overweight people during hot weather. The areas most commonly involved are beneath heavy breasts, under the arms and in the groin.
Intertrigo can also develop in other skin creases, such as around the neck, in front of the elbows or between the buttocks.
For severe cases of intertrigo, doctors may use a cortisone-type steroid cream and a cream to fight infection caused by bacteria or yeast.
For mild cases, all you may need to do is keep the area dry. Wet compresses work well, such as those soaked in Burow's solution, a nonprescription compound that helps to dry and soothe inflamed skin.
Prevention is the best remedy for intertrigo. The key is to break the cycle of heat, moisture and irritation. Here are some tips to prevent or treat mild cases of chafed skin before it becomes a problem.
Keep cool and dry. Use a fan or air conditioning as needed. Try to expose the affected skin to air a couple of times a day for 30 minutes or so.
Wear light, absorbent clothing. Use a bra that provides good support.
Wash and dry well any areas of the skin prone to chafing. A blow dryer helps. During the day, you can use disposable wipes to keep moisture in check.
Apply powder lightly, if at all. Don't use corn starch, which can promote bacterial growth and make matters worse.
Avoid creams and lotions, which can trap moisture and lead to skin irritation.
For problem perspiration, an antiperspirant may help. If this is too irritating, try cotton shields under the arms or beneath the breasts.
Jay Siwek, a family physician from Georgetown University, practices at the Fort Lincoln Family Medicine Center and Providence Hospital in Northeast Washington.
Consultation is a health education column and is not a substitute for medical advice from your physician.
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