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When summer fun leads us outdoors, rashes are likely to follow


When summer fun leads us outdoors, rashes are likely to follow. Board-certified dermatologist Elizabeth Kiracofe said it is important to take proper precautions to avoid rashes such as heat rash and poison ivy, as well as sunburn, which can increase your risk for skin cancer.

Try these tips to help prevent and treat common summer rashes and other skin issues:

Heat rash: When your sweat glands are blocked, this can cause a heat rash and tiny, itchy bumps to appear on your skin. To help prevent a heat rash on hot days, wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothes made of cotton, and plan outdoor activities during the coolest parts of the day when possible. 

Poisonous plants: Many people get a rash after coming into contact with poisonous plants, such as poison ivy, oak and sumac. Learn how to recognize them, and then avoid them. Outdoors, cover up with clothing, including long sleeves, pants, socks and boots. If you do come in contact with these plants, immediately rinse your skin with lukewarm, soapy water. Wash everything that may have come into contact with the plants, including clothing. If you get a rash, leave any blisters alone, and avoid scratching. Apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream for relief. If the rash is extensive or not relieved by these medications, call your dermatologist.

Sunburn:  To prevent sunburn, seek shade, wear sun-protective clothing – including a wide-brimmed hat – and apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Reapply your sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating. If you do get a sunburn, put a cold, damp towel on the area for 10-15 minutes a few times daily or take baths or showers in cool water to relieve pain. You can also apply moisturizer or a hydrocortisone cream. Avoid creams that contain petroleum, benzocaine or lidocaine, which can irritate your skin.

Swimmer’s itch: If you notice an itchy rash on your skin after wading or swimming in a lake or ocean, you may have swimmer’s itch. This rash is caused by parasites that burrow into your skin on areas that your swimsuit didn’t cover. If you develop this rash, do not go back in the water. Relieve the itch by applying a corticosteroid cream or cool compress or by soaking in a colloidal oatmeal bath.

Bug bites: Although most bug bites are harmless, some can spread dangerous diseases like Zika virus or Lyme disease. To prevent bug bites, use insect repellent that contains 20 – 30 percent DEET and wear appropriate clothing. To treat painful bites, such as a bee sting, take an over-the-counter painkiller, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. For bites that itch, apply an ice pack or an anti-itch cream, such as hydrocortisone. To reduce swelling, apply an ice pack to the bite.

Face-mask irritation: Make sure your mask is snug but comfortable and made of breathable fabric, like cotton. Avoid synthetic fabrics, which can cause breakouts. Wash your mask after each use, and skip wearing makeup if you can. If you must wear makeup, look for products labeled “non-comedogenic” or “oil-free.” Use mild, fragrance-free cleaners and moisturizers. Limit face washing to twice a day and after sweating, and apply moisturizer before and after wearing your mask, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin.

If a rash or other skin problem lingers or worsens, contact your dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment. 

To learn more, visit the American Academy of Dermatology’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/AcademyofDermatology. To find a board-certified dermatologist, visit aad.org/findaderm.

(Source: Elizabeth Kiracofe and the American Academy of Dermatology)