Bay Family Medicine: Taking the sting out of summer bites, rashes, and sunburn

Source: GMN Health
Summer is in full swing, and hopefully your fun hasn’t been jeopardized by anything that causes itchiness, redness or swelling. There are a few summer-specific skin conditions or, as they are known to physicians, “summer dermatoses,” that we should all keep on our radar.
Of course, the most common summer skin ailment is sunburn. It is important to stay protected by using a sunscreen with a UV rating of at least 30, but there are a few other heat-related skin issues that you might not be thinking about, but should be.
Contracting poison ivy or poison oak can really put a damper on a day in the great outdoors. The medical name for these issues is contact dermatitis.

Above is what poison ivy and poison oak look like.

The best way to prevent contact dermatitis is to be hyper-aware of your surroundings. Be careful when camping, hiking or walking — avoid tall grasses and stick to the paths.
Treat contacted skin with over-the-counter hydrocortisone, but if the rash is more severe you may need a prescription strength steroid from your own dermatologist or family physician.
Bug bites are annoying and can also lead to more serious health issues like Lyme disease or West Nile virus. Scratching a bug bite until it bleeds can lead to infection. The lipid mix on the surface of our skin and carbon dioxide production are what attract bugs to humans. Your skin’s lipid mix is based on genetics, and you can’t exactly stop breathing to prevent a bug bite. But there are some preventative measures that everyone can take.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using bug repellents that contain DEET, picardin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Sleep inside or in a screened in area like a tent. If you have a bug bite that is unusually itchy or feels painful, contact your family physician or dermatologist.
folliculitisIf you live in workout clothes or spandex, you could be at risk for developing folliculitis (inflammation of hair follicles). It is particularly easy to contract this bacterial infection in the summer months — bacteria thrive in warm, moist dark conditions like sweaty t-shirts or damp bathing suits. Folliculitis looks like red bumps or pustules and is commonly found on shoulders, thighs and bottoms. Folliculitis can be itchy or burn. It can be contracted in hot tubs: be sure that every hot tub you spend time in is properly chlorinated.
If you are sweaty, rinse off. Change out of tight clothes after exercising and try not to wear spandex all day. If you plan to be out for the whole day and it is very humid, bring a change of clothes. An antibacterial cleanser can help prevent and treat folliculitis. If you notice something that looks like folliculitis, contact your family physician or dermatologist. More severe cases require an oral antibacterial.

By Dr. Sandra Arango-Fahmy, Bay Family Medicine, affiliated with Raritan Bay Medical Center. Located at 26 Throckmorton Lane, Old Bridge. To schedule an appointment, call 732- 360-0287.

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