Blockage of sweat glands can cause an uncomfortable inflammation called hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), or a condition known as heat rash. The best way to avoid heat rash is not to overheat the skin. The cause of HS is still unknown, but early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the condition from worsening. While poor personal hygiene doesn't cause HS, lifestyle changes and a cleaning routine can help prevent sweat gland clogging.
Method 1 of 2: Preventing Blockage of the Sweat Glands
Step 1. Clean the skin with an antiseptic soap
Use a mild, non-irritating soap, and focus on the areas most likely to have clogged sweat glands. These areas are the groin, armpits, under the breasts, and areas that can fold themselves.
- Let the skin dry by itself, do not rub with a towel.
- Take a bath every day or twice a day so that the body is always clean.
Step 2. Avoid tight clothing
Types of clothing that press or rub against the skin will increase the chance of clogging. Therefore, it is better to wear loose clothing with natural fiber materials, such as cotton or linen.
- Underwire bras can clog the sweat glands under the breasts. Try to find a supportive bra that doesn't put too much pressure on the skin.
- Tight waistbands can also clog sweat glands.
Step 3. Quit smoking
Research shows that smoking increases the likelihood of developing HS even though the cause is unknown. Smoking is one of the high risk factors for HS. So, to prevent blockages, try to quit smoking.
- If you need help quitting smoking, talk to your doctor or local health organization.
- Support groups, online forums, or individual mentors can help with smoking cessation efforts. Many companies have incentive programs to help employees break this bad habit. Keep trying to find the way that works best for you.
Step 4. Maintain a healthy weight
HS is most common in people who are overweight or obese. To prevent clogging of sweat glands, try to maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, consider joining a weight loss program as encouragement and support for lifestyle changes. Apply a healthy diet, avoid sweet snacks and fatty foods, and eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit.
- Talk to your doctor or dietitian about your weight loss program and your dietary needs.
- If you already have HS, weight loss can prevent further progression.
Step 5. Do not shave body hair
Shaving the armpits and groin area can introduce bacteria into the glands. If you want to remove hair in areas that are most prone to HS, ask your doctor or dermatologist about other hair removal methods.
- Wearing perfume or scented deodorant can also irritate the skin. Use unscented products designed for sensitive skin.
- Since shaving the groin and armpits is culturally sensitive, you may need to talk to your doctor about seeking a support group. Wearing closed clothes will keep you from the social complexities of body hair.
Step 6. Keep the groin area clean and cool
Choose cotton underwear to promote air circulation and avoid tight clothing. Underwear made of synthetic materials will restrict airflow and increase the chance of clogging of sweat glands.
- Wash the area with soap once or twice a day, depending on your needs. Use antibacterial soap and let it dry on its own.
- Use warm water to clean.
Step 7. Avoid overheating
Profuse sweating can make the sweat glands inflamed. Using a sauna, hot tub, or steam room causes sweat to flow and clog the glands. So, do exercise early in the morning or late in the evening when the temperature is lower. Don't do "hot" yoga aimed at increasing sweat flow.
- Antiperspirants are too harsh for sensitive skin and can cause blockages. If you want to take an antiperspirant, ask your doctor for a recommendation.
- Do the exercise slowly, don't overheat.
Method 2 of 2: Overcome Sweat Gland Blockage
Step 1. Know the symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)
Signs of HS include the presence of black-eyed pimples in the groin or anus area, under the breasts, or in the armpits. You may feel a painful, pea-sized lump under the skin. These lumps sometimes last for months or even years. In addition, a lump may appear that oozes fluid for a matter of months.
- These symptoms usually begin right after puberty, characterized by a single painful lump.
- Individuals most likely to develop symptoms of HS are women, of African American descent, overweight, smokers, and have a history of HS.
- Some HS is mild and can be treated at home. For more severe cases, HS requires doctor's care.
- HS affects at least 1% of the population.
Step 2. Use a warm compress
Placing a clean, warm washcloth on the skin for 10-15 minutes can help with the pain of blocked sweat glands. If there is a deep, painful lump caused by a blockage, compresses can ease the pain.
- You can also use a hot tea bag as a compress. Steep tea bags in boiling water. Then, lift and stick to the HS area.
- The warm effect will ease the pain, but will not remove the lump.
Step 3. Clean the skin with antibacterial soap
Choose a soap that does not irritate the skin. Look for fragrance-free soaps made for sensitive skin. Soap until foamy, and rinse thoroughly. Let the skin dry by itself.
- After cleansing, you may need to apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream.
- Avoid creams, lotions, etc. that are moisturizing because they will clog sweat glands and pores.
Step 4. Take zinc supplements
Studies show that zinc supplements help reduce the likelihood of increased inflammation. Zinc supplements include zinc sulfate, zinc acetate, zinc glycine, zinc oxide, zinc chelate, and zinc gluconate. This type of zinc is considered safe when used in recommended doses.
- Although small amounts of zinc appear to be safe for pregnant women, consult your doctor first and use them with caution. Studies have not eliminated the possibility of harm to the fetus.
- Avoid zinc chloride. There are no studies on its safety or effectiveness.
Step 5. Use antibiotics to treat the infection
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat existing infections and prevent new ones from appearing. There are several types of antibiotics that are prescribed for long-term preventive use.
- If there is no bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to suppress further development.
- Antibiotics are available in pill form to be taken orally, or contained in ointment form to be applied to the infected area.
Step 6. Try steroid medication to reduce inflammation
Corticosteroid (steroid) tablets, such as prednisolone, may be prescribed for short periods. This option is most effective when HS symptoms are very painful and make daily activities difficult.
- Steroids should not be used in the long term because they cause negative side effects. Long-term effects include osteoporosis, weight gain, cataracts, and mental health problems such as depression.
- Steroid injections in the area of infection are also effective for short-term treatment.
Step 7. Ask your doctor about tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha inhibitors
It is a new class of injectable drug that reduces inflammation and stops the progression of HS. Examples include Infliximab (Remicade ®), Etanercept (Enbrel ®), Adalimumab (Humira ®), Golimumab (Simponi ®) and Golimumab (Simponi Aria ®).
- They are also used to treat inflammatory problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, arthritis in children, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's and colitis), ankylosing spondylitis, and psoriasis.
- Because it is new, the drug is still expensive. Most insurers cover it, but check first to be sure.
Step 8. Consider surgery
For sweat gland blockage and severe cases of HS, surgery is a practical option. Lumps that drain fluid are connected by "ducts" under the skin and can be surgically removed. This procedure is usually effective in treating blockages or HS in these areas, but problems can develop in other areas.
- The removal of fluid from the swollen area through surgery can resolve the problem in the short term.
- Surgery to remove the skin over all the infected areas may be recommended. In this case, a skin transplant will be performed to repair the operated area and close the wound.
- Avoid hot environments that make you sweat a lot.
- Quitting smoking and losing weight are the two most effective measures to treat HS.