Most Embarrassing Questions: Blushing
Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa answers our most uncomfortable questions--providing straight talk about blushing, sweaty workout clothes, and more.
Q: I turn bright red whenever I speak to my boss or talk to colleagues in a meeting. How do I keep from blushing?
A: The problem is nerves, and theres no simple solution. But that doesnt mean looking like a cooked lobster is your destiny. Blushing is a psychological reaction to stress or embarrassment; it happens when blood vessels in the cheek area dilate. Keeping your stress level under control may help. Or, try a deep-breathing exercise every morning and before stressful events (like meetings): Take 10 slow, deep breaths while sitting in a comfortable position and thinking about something pleasant. If you do start to blush, immediately think about something that makes you feel calm—maybe a beach vacation or a bike ride.
If youre blushing a lot without any emotional triggers, you may have rosacea, an inflammatory skin disease. About 14 million adults have it, usually people with fair skin between the ages of 30 and 60. Its more common in women. Redness associated with rosacea can be brought
on by stress, but it lasts much longer than a normal blush. If you think this could be the problem, check with your dermatologist, who can recommend a combination of prescription treatments and self-care measures.
Q: I dont always shower after my workout. Is that a problem?
A: It depends on the workout because the key issue is sweat. If youre doing a light, nonaerobic workout that doesnt leave you sweaty, then showering right afterward isnt absolutely necessary. But if youre drenched at the end of your session and youre sitting in damp clothes (especially damp underwear), you can end up with chafing and a rash. The dampness is also a breeding ground for bacteria or yeast, both of which can lead to infection, even methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Q: My fifth-grader was sent home with head lice. I feel like a horrible parent. What did I do wrong?
A: You didnt do anything wrong. Head lice, which are very common among schoolchildren, are not a hygiene issue. Lice are parasitic insects that live on peoples heads and feed on blood. (Theyre easiest to detect at the neckline and behind the ears.) An adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed, and the eggs, called nits, are even smaller, almost like dandruff flakes. Children pass head lice to each other by sharing hats, combs, headphones, or earbuds, sleeping on the same sheets, or even just having their heads close to each other. (Those suckers can jump.) The pests spread very easily and, while they can cause irritation and itchiness, are not at all dangerous. Many schools will send home a note if theres a lice outbreak.
To get rid of lice, first try an over-the-counter product like Nix ($13.49), a cream rinse with the insecticide permethrin, or use a shampoo containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide (Rid, A-200, or Pronto; all available at drugstores). Youll also need to comb through your childs hair daily to remove the lice, and some of these products come with a special comb. If all that doesnt work, talk to your doc about a prescription shampoo or pills. And remind your children not to share their personal stuff!
Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is an assistant professor of medicine at NYU Medical Center.