Your summer health worries, busted

Whether you're terrified of vaccinations or worried about period leaks when you're wearing a bikini, we've got the answer
Photography Getty Images and Pixeleyes

Like us, you probably spend most of the year counting down to summer (or, more specifically, the sun-soaked holiday you booked last September). But along with the warmer weather and balmy breezes can come some health worries that we’d rather keep private. Yes, we’re talking verrucas, non-stop sweating in the heat, and periods that make us fret about wearing a bikini. With this in mind, we asked our experts to tackle a few common issues, so your summer can be a cringe-free zone.

"I’m so scared of needles, I feel faint when I have injections. But I need some for my long-haul holiday. Help!"

Save your blushes

This is a very real phobia and it’s thought to affect up to 10% of the population. The first step is to find out what you need for your holiday. ‘Ideally, six to eight weeks before you go, book a consultation with a specially trained Boots Travel Vaccinations and Health Advice pharmacist, who can help you work out which vaccinations you require,’ says Boots Pharmacist Scot Taylor. ‘When it comes to having them, book your appointment on a day off and bring someone with you. You could even listen to music as a distraction. And tell your pharmacist that you’re nervous – they’ll do all they can to help you stay calm.’

But what to do about that horrible faint feeling? ‘This happens because of a drop in blood pressure when we see something unpleasant, resulting in less oxygen to the brain,’ says psychotherapist Lorna Cordwell*. ‘Keeping your mind calm is one thing, but you don’t want to try to relax your body too much, as this will create a further drop in blood pressure. Instead, practise physical counterpressure manoeuvres, which create tension to raise your blood pressure.’ Say what? ‘During your jab, make a fist with your right hand if you’re having injections in your left arm (and vice versa), squeezing until your arm muscles feel tense. Hold for 10-20 seconds, or until you stop feeling faint.’

For a small minority, the phobia can be severe. If so, your GP may recommend a course of cognitive behavioural therapy – a type of counselling that can be effective.

How can we help?

The Boots Travel Vaccinations and Health Advice service** offers vaccinations for a number of diseases, including combined hepatitis A and B, typhoid and yellow fever; plus antimalarial medication in larger stores. Go to Boots Travel Health or download the Boots app to book an appointment.

"Verrucas are a persistent summer nightmare for me and my kids. How can we avoid them?"

Save your blushes

Verrucas can be incredibly painful – like stepping on a needle. ‘They’re caused by the human papillomavirus and are common in children, particularly between the ages of 12 and 16, because of their less-developed immune systems,’ says podiatrist Emily Payne. But adults can contract them, too. ‘The virus thrives in a warm, wet environment, so that’s why you’re more likely to develop verrucas around swimming pools.’

To reduce the risk, avoid being barefoot around pools and changing rooms, wash your feet and change your socks regularly, and never share towels or touch the warts (they can spread to other parts of the body).’ They usually go away on their own, Emily says, but can take months or even years to disappear. ‘Creams, sprays or plasters from the pharmacy will help the pain and may even get rid of them, but if your verrucas are worrying you, speak to your GP about freezing treatments.’

How can we help?

Endwarts Freeze Wart & Verruca Remover Boots exclusive £17.99/1,799 points, is a rapid home treatment that effectively removes warts on hands, arms and feet.

"I wear my contact lenses every day and I can’t see without them. What’s the answer for the pool?"

Save your blushes

‘Contact lenses shouldn’t be exposed to any kind of water, including tap water, showers and Jacuzzis,’ advises Samantha Watson, Senior Professional Services Manager, Boots Opticians. ‘The lenses will absorb whatever is in the water, including bacteria such as acanthamoeba, which can result in a serious eye infection. If you choose to wear contact lenses, the best option is to be fitted with daily disposables for use with goggles when swimming; the lenses should always be discarded immediately after swimming. Your Boots optician can also supply swimming goggles to your prescription.’

When you’re abroad, be aware that pollen levels in the air may be different to those at home. Keep a pair of glasses with you at all times, in case any irritants get into your lenses and you need to remove them.

How can we help?

Your local Boots optician will be able to talk you through the best options available for your holiday – simply head to Boots Opticians to find your nearest store.

"I sweat a lot (and I mean everywhere), even in winter. So on hot days, how can I avoid looking like I’ve run a marathon?"

Save your blushes

Sweat is actually healthy – it’s the body’s cooling mechanism, which protects against overheating. But about 3% of us suffer from hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). ‘Your first port of call should be strong antiperspirants – look for aluminium chloride hexahydrate in the ingredients list of products often available over the counter, as this helps to block sweat glands,’ says Dr Anton Alexandroff, consultant dermatologist at BMI The Manor Hospital. If that doesn’t help, visit your GP as you may have hyperhidrosis. ‘Treatment will depend on the affected area,’ says Dr Alexandroff. ‘Anticholinergic medication works to block the chemical at the end of the nerves that causes sweat, while iontophoresis is a treatment using electric currents passed through water to temporarily disrupt sweat glands. Surgery is also an option.’

For a quick fix, avoid wearing bright colours (sweat patches will be more obvious) and opt for loose clothes in breathable cotton. Excessive groin sweat? ‘Wear underwear made from natural fibres such as cotton or silk, and if you’re concerned about odour, use plain, unperfumed soaps or washes (the vagina cleans itself with natural secretions),’ says Dr Alexandroff.

How can we help?

Stronger than a traditional antiperspirant, DriClor Solution, £6.19/619 points (20ml), may help reduce excess perspiration. And for any down-there concerns, try clinically tested, soap-free Vagisil ProHydrate Intimate Wash, £5/500 points (250ml), to help you feel fresh.

"Last holiday, swimming pool + period + small bikini = huge leak situation. What can I do this year?"

Save your blushes

Let’s face it, the mere thought of a leak is enough to keep most of us on the sun lounger in dark trousers. So if you’ve booked a holiday that coincides with your time of the month, it might be worth looking into delaying your period. Over to Scot: ‘With the Boots Period Delay Online Clinic, you take a prescription-only treatment, which will delay your period until you stop taking it. You must be aged 16 to 54 and not using any contraceptive pill or hormonal contraception. After an online consultation, a Boots clinician will review your answers. If it’s suitable for you, you’ll usually be able to collect your medicine in store or get it sent to your home within 24 hours.’

How can we help?

Find out more on the Boots Period Delay Online Clinic.

"My eczema tends to flare up in warm weather. How can I stop it ruining my fun?"

Save your blushes

‘Factors such as pollen count, humidity, sweat and temperature can make the uncomfortable, dry skin of eczema worse during the summer months,’ explains Dr Adam Friedmann, who is a consultant dermatologist at The Harley Street Dermatology Clinic. According to him, your top priorities are staying cool, moisturising and avoiding irritants.

‘Wash regularly with emollient creams rather than soap, use a sunscreen that’s designed for sensitive skin, and make sure you’re always carrying a bottle of anti-inflammatory cream and moisturiser,’ he advises. And even though you might think the cooling effect of sweat would be good for eczema, the sodium it contains can actually irritate it further. ‘Wipe away sweat that accumulates in any areas prone to dryness, such as elbows and knees, with sensitive-skin wipes,’ recommends Dr Friedmann.

How can we help?

Ambre Solaire Sensitive Sun Cream Spray SPF50+, £7/700 points (200ml), for fair and sensitive skins, protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays.

4 breezy beach cheats
1. Keep your feet cool

Turn your flip-flops face down, so they don’t burn your feet when you put them back on.

2. Covered in sand?

Sprinkle talcum powder over yourself and it’ll dust off easily.

3. Beach-ready phone hack

Put your phone in a sandwich bag to keep it clean (you’ll still be able to use the touchscreen).

4. Refresh

Bring a pack of baby wipes (infused with aloe vera) to clean off sweat, chlorine and salt water, and help soothe hot skin. Always remember to reapply sunscreen afterwards.

*Lorna Cordwell is head of counselling at Chrysalis Courses. **In selected Boots Pharmacy stores, subject to eligibility criteria, specially trained pharmacist and stock availability; charges apply. †Subject to stock availability and clinician approval; charges apply.
Photography Getty Images and Pixeleyes