Treatment for Common Summer Bummers
June 03, 2018
Nothing interferes with summer fun quite like a brush with these summer bummers. Warm-weather maladies, usually just annoying, can on occasion turn serious. Don’t fall victim. Take steps today to protect your family.
Poison ivy, oak or sumac
If you wander off the path anywhere with shrubbery this summer, you’re likely to encounter poison ivy, oak or sumac.
Urushiol oil from the plants sticks to clothes, bed sheets, garden tools, even pets. Soap and water will wash it away, but it if soaks into your skin it will cause an allergic reaction in 85% of the population warns Dr. Brittani Moeller, family practice physician at CHI Health Good Samaritan. "Redness, small or large blisters, often forming streaks or lines and itchy skin are all common signs."
Home remedies to help avoid scratching, which can cause infection:
- Bathing in water with colloidal oatmeal
- Applying cool, wet cloths (compresses)
- Applying calamine lotion or corticosteroid cream on the skin
- Consider taking antihistamine
The rash may not start until 12 to 72 hours after exposure and can last for 1-3 weeks. Not contagious, "but you’ll want to wash everything that might have plant oils on its surface," says Moeller.
Absolutely certain that your rash is due to poison ivy, oak, or sumac? Try riding it out at home. But Moeller cautions, "if it appears on your face, a large part of your body or you experience swelling like an eyelid swells shut, you'll need to see a doctor."
Accidentally burning these dead plants can releases urushiol into the air causing a serious reaction. Seek medical treatment immediately if you are having trouble breathing or swallowing.
Can’t wait for those summer nights spent at the ballpark–pop flys, hotdogs…and bloodthirsty mosquitoes?
"Besides the itch, the real problem is mosquitoes carry diseases like West Nile," said Dr. Moeller. "Luckily, we've had options to avoid being bitten. Protective clothing and bug spray with 20-30% DEET work best to keep the mosquitoes off your skin."
Worried about using DEET? Recent studies suggested repellents containing picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus are equally effective.
Despite best efforts, bug bites and stings will happen. Fortunately, most can be safely treated at home with:
- Over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- An ice pack
- Anti-itch cream, such as hydrocortisone
- Oral antihistamine
Dr. Moeller warns if you have any serious symptoms after a bite, such as a rash, fever or body aches, see your doctor right away.
Too much sun without proper protection can lead to red, hot, painful skin…and cancer.
"Just one or two serious sun exposures, can increase your risk of skin cancer,” says Moeller. “It’s really best to prevent a sunburn before it starts. Seek shade and wear sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher), a hat, sunglasses and other protective clothing. And if you feel yourself getting burned, get out of the sun immediately."
Sunburns serious enough to cause blisters also have the potential for an ER visit. "Blisters that cover a large area, severe pain, facial swelling, fever, chills, headache, confusion, nausea or signs of dehydration are indicators of sun poisoning and warrant medical attention," says Moeller.
For less serious sunburns, home treatment can help heal and soothe stinging skin:
- Replace body fluids
- Take frequent cool baths or showers
- Immediately apply aloe vera or soy moisturizer
- Consider taking aspirin or ibuprofen
- Protect your skin from further sun exposure
- If blisters form, don't break them and risk infection
Tan, but don’t burn? Dr. Moeller also cautions a tan is actually a response to injury from the UV rays–the skins way of protecting itself. "There’s no such thing as a 'healthy' tan," says Moeller. "The sun and indoor tanning beds give off powerful levels of cancer-causing radiation."