The Heat is Almost on: How heat impacts Athletes' Skin

Ashlea Edwards loves to run in the sun--but the sun and heat doesn't love her.

She has bouts of acne on her face and eczema on her arms and the heat and sweat causes nothing but problems.

"I started to develop eczema on my face when I started to get really, really active in sports,” Ashlea said. “It was pretty bad on my face and the sweat seemed to aggravate it even more."

Ashlea is in good company. Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center looked at sports related skin problems by Olympic sports--from swimmers and runners to beach volleyball and soccer--and found that skin conditions can become so chronic they can reduce performance.

Ashlea plays soccer and runs in half marathons--she said heat related skin issues can make it miserable to train.

"I tried my best to not always be outside when it was the most humid and the hottest part of the day,” Ashelea recalled. “If not, I tried not to let it affect what I was doing."

Dr. Naila Malik is a dermatologist in Southlake, Texas where she said late spring is when she starts seeing heat related skin problems.

Acne, eczema and heat rash are the usual suspects.

Heat rash many not sound like a big deal--until you run a half marathon.

"Any chronic skin infection that is moderately severe will lead to a lot of irritation and chronic pain which can impair your ability to play," Dr. Malik said.

Heat rash can usually be treated with a cold compress or over the counter ointments but Dr. Malik said acne and eczema can become so troublesome they need to be treated with medications--and even that can be tricky.

"It's a bit of a challenge,” Dr. Malik said. “They have to find a product that is medicated to treat their acne but still gentle enough not to make their eczema worse."

Dr. Malik tells athletic patients to work out before 10:00 a.m., wear loose clothing and shower right after exercising.

It’s a prescription that won't get Ashlea to the Olympics but she’ll live to run another day in the heat of the Texas sun.

"If I continue to be active and I don't keep it under control then it just goes crazy,” Ashlea said.