5 Common Summer Skin Conditions
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2024

5 Common Summer Skin Conditions

Nothing calls us outdoors quite the like warm temperatures and blue skies of summer. Whether you’re swimming, hiking, biking, or just taking in the clouds from the comfort of your lawn, you’re at risk of any number of common summer skin woes. Here’s a look at five issues and how to prevent and treat them.

Prickly Heat

Also called heat rash, prickly heat occurs when sweat gets trapped under the skin due to humidity and heat. Featuring small, inflamed blister-like bumps, prickly heat rightfully earns its name from the accompanying and itching or prickling in the affected area.

To prevent heat rash, wear lightweight, breathable fabrics and avoid excessive sweating. Staying in an air-conditioned area can help.

Treat heat rash by taking cool showers and allowing the affected area to air dry.

Bug Bites and Stings

Usually, biting and stinging insects only cause an itchy bump when they strike, but some can leave your skin with painful welts and even spread disease (think Lyme disease). No matter the pest that’s cramping your fun, prevention is the best approach to keeping bugs—and bites—at bay.

When venturing out, use insect repellent that contains 20 to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin and clothing. Always follow the instructions on the repellent and reapply as directed.

NOTE: If you are also wearing sunscreen (and you should be), apply sunscreen first. After it’s dried completely, apply insect repellent.  

If you know you’re going to be out at night or venturing into a known buggy area (deep woods or swampy areas), wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible. For added protection from ticks, pull your socks over your pants and tuck your shirt into your pants.

Treat itchy bites with and ice pack or anti-itch medication. For extreme itching, take an over-the-counter oral antihistamine.

For painful bites—think wasps or bees, take an over-the-counter painkiller, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Apply ice to reducing swelling and minimize pain.

If you find a tick in your skin, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady pressure.

Do not be alarmed if the tick’s mouthparts remain in the skin. Once the mouthparts are separated from the body of the tick, it can no longer transmit the infection. Leave it be and let your body handle it.

Once the tick is removed, thoroughly wash your hands, and clean the bite area with soap and water, antiseptic, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

If the tick is engorged or was attached to your body for more than 36 hours, contact your doctor for next steps.

Even if the tick was not attached for 36+ hours, watch for symptoms of tick-borne illness over the next several weeks. If you have any flu-like symptoms or a rash in the bite area, contact your doctor.

Plant Rashes

If you spend any time in the woods or fields, it’s difficult NOT to encounter poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak. Oils in the leaves and stems of these plants cause an allergic reaction that can cause your skin to redden, swell, blisters, and itch.

The best way to avoid plant rashes is to avoid the plants that cause them. Take some time to learn what each plant looks like and it’s growing habits (you can find that info and photos here).

If you are exposed, wash your hands—including under your nails, other exposed body parts, and clothes using a degreasing soap (such as Dawn dishwashing soap), rubbing alcohol, or detergent, and lots (and lots) of water. Rinse repeatedly to keep the oil from drying on your skin and spreading.

If a rash appears, apply wet compresses, calamine lotion, or hydrocortisone cream to the skin to reduce itching and blistering.

For severe itching, take an over-the-counter oral antihistamine.

For severe rashes or ones located on the face or genitals, contact your doctor’s office or visit ExpressCare.

Chafing

A very common and uncomfortable summer skin problem is chafing. The result of friction between clothing and the skin, chafing is only made worse by moisture, usually in the form of sweat or water.

You can prevent chafing by wearing properly fitting, sweat-wicking clothing. If your clothes become damp or sweaty, change out of them quickly, drying your skin thoroughly (blot, don’t rub) before putting on dry clothes.

If you’re dealing with recurring friction during exercise, apply an anti-chafing cream or petroleum jelly to the affected area when engaging in the activity.

Sunburn

In addition to increasing your chance of skin cancer, sunburn can be a painful reminder of the power of sunscreen.

If possible, avoid spending time outdoors during peak burn hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you do venture out, apply a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen. Let the sunscreen dry for 15-30 minutes for the best benefit.  And remember to reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.

Even with sunscreen, long-sleeved shirts, pants and wide-brimmed hats are always recommended.

If you develop a burn, use an after-sun moisturizer or gel or hydrocortisone cream for relief. Be sure to drink plenty or water to prevent dehydration, which is common among sunburn sufferers.

If your skin blisters, allow the blisters to break on their own, and clean them gently with a mild soap and water. Apply antibiotic ointment, and cover with a non-stick gauze bandage.

If your burn is painful, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to help minimize discomfort.

Be sure to avoid additional sun exposure until your skin is completely healed.

 

A Note About Medications and Sun Exposure
Certain medications can make your skin highly sensitive to the sun's radiation, resulting in immediate sunburn. Common culprits include certain antibiotics, thiazide diuretics, contraceptive pills, antihistamines, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil).  If you’re on any of these medications, keep sun exposure to a minimum.

 

 

Lixia Ellis, MD, PhD is dermatologist at SVMC Dermatology.

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