Summer Penis Problems: How to Keep It Cool When It's Hot
Ah, the sweet joys of summer: spending more time outdoors, going for a swim, perhaps taking vacation days to travel to exotic locales. For people who suffer through long, dark winters, it can be a real relief when it gets warm—to a point.
Let's face it: The sticky, sweltering oppression of the depths of summer can be a lot at times. One place you might really notice the heat is down under.
We're not talking about Australia. No, we're talking about dealing with "summer penis."
OK, so summer penis isn't exactly a medical condition, but guys get the general idea. When the heat gets brutal, extra stickiness and sweating are especially noticeable in the nether regions. It can lead to significant discomfort of the genitals, including a handful of irritating conditions.
We'll look at some of the potential risks that go along with summer penis problems, as well as what you can do to avoid the worst of the heat.
What you should know about summer penis problems
It's bad enough when the summer heat simply raises the temperature of your package. The extra high temperatures can lead to a couple of medical conditions if you're not careful.
Balanitis is inflammation and irritation of the head of the penis. It most frequently happens to uncircumcised guys, but it can affect anyone. Yeast infections are a frequent cause of balanitis, but so are bacterial infections and some skin conditions. Improper hygiene—not keeping the foreskin and penis head appropriately clean—is often the cause.
The heat of summer can make it a challenge to keep all parts of our bodies clean and free from sweat and the bacteria that go along with it. So it's no surprise that keeping the parts that are usually tucked away can be difficult.
Maintaining a healthy weight and controlling your blood sugar can go a long way toward preventing balanitis at any time. As can taking extra care to keep the area clean, especially as the mercury rises.
"We'll often see balanitis in men who have diabetes, but also men with poor hygiene, uncircumcised men, patients with phimosis [a tight foreskin] and those who have poor overall health," said Neel Parekh, M.D., a urologist and men's health specialist with Cleveland Clinic.
Men who are overweight and have unhealthy diets are particularly at risk because they may sweat excessively, which creates fertile ground for fungus and bacteria to grow, Parekh said.
If you notice redness, itching or burning on your penis head, see a healthcare provider right away. Untreated balanitis can lead to complications such as scarring and phimosis. It's important to get it diagnosed properly, as balanitis can be caused either by fungal overgrowth or bacterial infection, each of which is treated differently.
Most men have probably been there: when summer penis is actually all about those summer balls. Jock itch—aka tinea cruris—is an itchy, burning, stinging rash on the inner thighs, on the scrotum where it meets the inner thighs and sometimes even in your butt crack. It's a fungal infection that can cause scaly, irritated skin that may even result in blisters, bumps or cracked skin.
Jock itch is another summer penis problem that's more common in men who are obese or who have diabetes, again illustrating how important it is to maintain a healthy body weight and keep your blood sugar in balance.
Jock itch is contagious, so be extra careful about sharing clothing and towels during the summer. Your gym buddy may end up giving you more than his hot tips on how to build those pecs—if you're not careful.
You can help yourself by letting your boys breathe as much as possible.
"There's so much that can happen to the male genitals that no one ever knew about, huh?" said Amy Pearlman, M.D., a men's health specialist and co-founder of Prime Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "Regarding the 'summer penis,' I would emphasize that wearing underwear to allow for breathability and moisture-wicking can help optimize genital health in a season when the heat and outdoor activities can make the genitals very sweaty. Use of over-the-counter (OTC) topical antifungals may also be necessary this time of year."
In terms of jock itch specifically, since the area where the inner thigh meets the scrotum is often ground zero for this type of fungal growth, keeping them separated as much as possible can also help.
"Men can consider wearing underwear containing a pouch to keep the scrotum/testicles separate from the inner thighs, as this may reduce chafing and stickiness," Pearlman said. "Also, if a man has persistent symptoms like redness and itchiness involving his genitals and/or inner thighs despite these measures and OTC therapies, he should see a healthcare provider for evaluation and possible prescription medication. Men don't need to suffer through this."
Keeping male genitals clean and free from infection or irritation can be a challenge any time of year. They get packed away in the dark all day long—no wonder they get irritated. Wouldn't you?
All it takes is a few simple steps to prevent the worst of summer penis. Take extra care to keep yourself clean by taking regular showers. Also, change out of damp clothes soon after a workout (or anytime you sweat), and change your underwear daily.