Summer Bummer: Skin Suffers
Infections, insects, sun, pool water -- they all wreak havoc on skin.
If you're allergic, you know how annoying poison ivy can be.
The itching and oozing can last up to two weeks -- it just seems longer.
Poison ivy, oak, and sumac all work the same. Your nemesis is
urushiol, the poisonous oil that adheres to your skin and causes the symptoms,
says Kathy Burke, MD, PHD, a dermatologist at Cabrini Medical Center in New
York City. The itching and rashes don't appear immediately; it typically takes
between 5 to 21 days before you feel those effects.
Important note: "If you wash within 20 minutes of touching
it, you probably won't get it," Burke tells WebMD.
Once you've got blisters, make sure you don't spread the poison
to other parts of your skin. "People think it's spreading, but the blister
fluid itself won't spread it," Burke tells WebMD. "You spread it
yourself by touching the poison on your skin, then touching another place on
Some "poison ivy protectant" products are available
over-the-counter and provide a barrier on your skin. Also, a product called
Zanfel Poison Ivy Wash is said to completely remove the poisonous oil from the
skin and provide lasting relief from symptoms within usually 30 seconds of
Best idea, if you're allergic: Wear long pants and long-sleeve
shirts plus gloves if you're around poison ivy. Don't touch clothes after
taking them off, and wash them right away. Sensitive people can get it after
being exposed to a minor amount, even from pets' fur, says Burke.
To ease itching: Benadryl helps. So do oatmeal baths, 1/2%
hydrocortisone cream, and calamine lotion. Putting ice on the itch acts as a
topical anesthetic. If your reaction is really bad, a doctor should prescribe
steroid creams, Burke says. "It's worth going to the doctor the first time,
then using those medications again the next time you're exposed."
Insect Stings and Bites
Usually, insects are just an annoyance -- but some people are
deathly allergic to stings and bites. Anaphylaxis is a severe reaction and
nothing to take lightly, Burke tells WebMD. "You can't breathe because your
throat starts to close. You have to get right to the hospital, or you literally