Summer Skin Hazards

Summer is full of vacations, cookouts, and beach trips. All that time outside can take a toll on your skin, though.

Here's what you can do to avoid or treat some common problems.

Sunburns

They're uncomfortable, to be sure. But they can also cause premature aging and lead to skin cancer.

Your best bet is to limit how much sun you get -- especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when those rays are at their strongest.

Follow these simple steps, too:

  • Apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin about 30 minutes before you go outside. Look for a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
  • Put on more screen every 2 hours while you’re in the sun, or right after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Use a lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • If you get a sunburn, take a cool shower or bath, and use a moisturizer or an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. It should ease the fiery feeling.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Blisters
  • Fever
  • Extreme pain
  • Swelling of the face
  • A large area that’s sunburned

Get emergency care if you notice symptoms of:

Bug Bites

From mosquitoes to chiggers, insects can chomp into your summertime fun. But you can avoid them or at least keep the pesky pains they cause to a minimum.

Avoid brushy areas and high grass. If you can’t stay away from it, wear long pants and sleeves, and tuck your pant legs into your socks.

Don’t wear bright colors, perfume, or other strong scents when you go outside.

Use insect repellent when you’re in wooded or brushy areas. Products with DEET or picaridin as active ingredients tend to protect you longer. But don't use them on children younger than 3 years old.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus gives you protection similar to products with low concentrations of DEET, studies show. DEET should protect you from ticks and mosquitoes, the CDC says. Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus offer some defense against mosquitoes only. Follow the directions carefully.

Check for ticks after you’ve been outdoors.

If you get bitten, treat it quick if you can. A cold compress or an ice pack will curb the swelling.

For help with itchy bites, use calamine lotion, an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, or an antihistamine.

Continued

Poisonous Plants

Poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac can give you itchy skin and a red, blistering rash. The reaction happens when oil from these plants gets onto your skin.

The best way to prevent a rash is to learn what these plants look like and avoid them. If you do come in contact with one, wash your skin in warm water right away. Scrub under your fingernails so you won’t spread the oil to other parts of your body. Wash your clothes in hot water to remove the oil.

Use these tips to find relief if you still get a rash:

  • Apply cool compresses to your skin.
  • Take a lukewarm bath using an oatmeal bath product. Or add 1 cup of baking soda to running bath water.
  • Use calamine lotion, an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, or an antihistamine.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a fever.
  • The rash is severe or looks infected.
  • The rash is on your lips, eyes, face, or genitals.

Call 911 if you think you're having a severe reaction.

Cuts and Scrapes

You can get them year-round, but they're more likely during the summer, when you’re doing things outdoors.

To treat them:

  • Use cool, running water and soap to clean a minor cut or scrape.
  • To stop a cut from bleeding, use a clean cloth or tissue to apply firm pressure. That should stop the bleeding.
  • If your cut is in an area that won’t get dirty, you can leave it uncovered. Otherwise, bandage it and change the dressing every day.
  • As it heals, you'll get a scab. Don't pick at it. The scab will fall off on its own when the wound heals.

See your doctor if you notice symptoms of an infection, such as:

Get medical care right away for wounds on the face, or for major skin gashes that are deep, bleed heavily, or have objects embedded in them.

Also call your doctor if your tetanus shot isn't up to date.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on May 03, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

David Leffell, MD, professor of dermatology and surgery, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; author, Total Skin.

Arielle Kauvar, MD, dermatologist, New York Laser and Skin Care; clinical professor of dermatology, New York University School of Medicine. 

American Academy of Dermatology: “Facts About Sunscreens,” “Sunscreens.”

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: “Stinging Insect Allergy: How to Avoid the Ouch.”

FDA: “Beware of Bug Bites and Stings”,  “Outsmarting Poison Ivy and Other Poisonous Plants.”,  “Should You Put Sunscreen on Infants? Not Usually.”

CDC: “Ticks,” “What You Need to Know About Mosquito Repellent.”

FamilyDoctor.org: “First Aid: Cuts, Scrapes and Stitches.”

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