Following is a short discussion of some of the most common rashes or skin irritation of summer.
Remember that if a rash is accompanied by fever, sore throat, other symptoms, or lasts more than two weeks, seek medical attention because it could be a sign of serious illness.
Heat Rash also known as Prickly Heat
This rash is most common in warm, humid weather when the pores or sweat ducts become blocked, and sweat is trapped under the skin. It is common in babies. The rash usually goes away when the skin is cooled and allowed to dry. Avoid greasy ointments that can plug the pores. Loose fitting clothing and good airflow will help prevent the rash. A medicated powder may speed relief.
Poison Ivy and Poison Oak
There are a lot of misconceptions about poison ivy and it's habit of "spreading." In reality, rashes from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are caused by the skin coming in contact with the irritating substance called Urushiol. This substance is not only found in the leaves, but in the stems and the berries. It can be released in smoke if the plants are burned. This irritating substance bonds to the skin and causes irritation ranging from small pink bumps to a weeping, blistered rash. Itching is often severe.
Although it appears that the poison ivy rash is spreading, the fact is that it comes out over several days. The time frame depends on the concentration of Urushiol, the thickness of the skin, and the force with which it is contacted. Oil can be picked up from tools or clothing that have touched the plants.
The best thing to do is to avoid the offending plants. The rule of thumb is " leaves of three, let them be." When camping, pick "natural" toilet paper with this fact in mind!
Removal of the oil is the best treatment. Washing vigorously with warm soapy water helps if the oil hasn't had time to bond to the skin. There are over-the-counter washes which have abrasive particles and solvents, which work very well. A few favorite products for itch of poison ivy are Itch-X and Cortaid Cream or generic hydrocortisone cream.
If the rash is severe, lasts more than two weeks, is on the face, is near eyes or is on the genitals, consult a doctor.
Insect Bites and Stings
Near the end of summer and into the fall, the populations of most stinging insects are at their highest.
The increased population of bees and wasps means more stings. Honey bees are gentile by nature and usually do not sting unless they are disturbed or provoked. Unlike wasps, bees only sting once, and it costs them their lives. They leave behind their stinger and sometimes the end of their abdomen. Do not pinch the stinger to remove it. Instead, flick or wipe it off. This prevents the injection of more venom from the little sack left behind.
Some people are allergic to these stings and can have a life threatening reaction such as severe swelling or difficulty breathing. Seek medical treatment immediately. There are emergency kits for people who have these dangerous reactions.
After a sting, remove the stinger, wash the skin with soap and water, apply a cold compress and if necessary some hydrocortisone cream. An oral antihistamine may help with the itching or swelling. Do not scratch the area; it will only make the itching worse and increase the chance of infection. Call a doctor if necessary.
A little prevention and some simple preparation is key to an itch free rash season.