With the hot temperatures and a lot of sunshine outside, Dr. Daniel Peraza answered some common questions about summer skin issues. Here learn about best practices when dealing with sunburns, poison ivy, bug bites, friction rashes, and more.
Q: I tell my kids not to scratch their bug bites, but I scratch my own all the time. What’s the correct way to handle itchy bites?
A: I scratch mine, too. The only thing to be careful about is that if you scratch too hard, it can get an infection on top of of the bug bite, compounding the problem. Use soothing salves and topical creams for bites. But do not use Benadryl cream for bug bites. You can have an allergic reaction and make the bug bite worse, getting a sore on top of the bite.
Q: Summer means poison ivy. What are the best remedies? And does eating poison ivy make you immune?
A: For starters, don’t eat poison ivy. There is a misconception that this can “protect” you from future bouts of poison ivy. Eating it just gives you poison ivy in the esophagus, which is no picnic. While this sounds obvious, the best method for dealing with poison ivy is to learn to identify it and then avoid it. Poison ivy is potent and a little exposure can do big damage. Be careful with brush fires because if there is burning poison ivy, it can be very dangerous for some people. Mango rinds and cashew oil also contain the chemical compound urushiol, which causes reactions in 90% of people. The nuts are heat-treated when you buy them to eliminate the problem, but for people who are hyper-sensitive, it can be an issue. If you touch poison ivy, wash it off with cool water and soap as soon as possible because more than 50% of the oil will be absorbed within 10 minutes. As for treatment, calamine lotion can be soothing, as can oatmeal baths. Over the counter steroid, hydrocortisone, works well. When things get serious — swollen eyes, lots of weepy spots, unbearable itching — prednisone by mouth is a preferred treatment. Here’s a video from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that provides easy-to-understand information about poison ivy:
Q: How many tick bites do you see?
A: A lot. It is not a chore that anyone wants to add to their to-do list, but it’s really important to check yourself and your family members every day. Ticks are more prevalent than in the past, and although they do not all cause Lyme disease, you don’t want them on you. One topic getting coverage these days is the alpha-gal allergy, whereby a tick transmits a carbohydrate to humans that causes them to become allergic to mammalian meat. Unfortunately, ticks are probably not going away anytime soon, so it’s best to incorporate a tick check into your life.
Q: What are the most important steps to follow after a mild sunburn?
A: Don’t get it again! The reality is that you’re going to suffer for a couple days. Calamine lotion, oatmeal baths, and other cooling options can help. Unfortunately, any sun damage can increase our risk for skin cancer, so remember to prevent any future issues by using broad spectrum sunscreen.
Q: Aloe vera feels good. Does it work?
A: Sure. Some people can develop sensitivity, but if it feels good and is well tolerated, there is usually no harm in using this product.
Q: What changes do you see in the practice when the weather gets hot?
A: There are many rashes related to sun exposure. Gardeners who are exposed to plants can have some reactions. Also, with the higher temperatures and lots of outdoor time, increased sweating can cause some problems, including friction rashes. Most issues resolve themselves without treatment, but some things can be severe and uncomfortable. Usually, when it reaches that point, people call us.
Q: I’ve been living in my swimsuit, oftentimes damp. I now have a rash. What’s the best treatment?
A: Dry out. It’s just like babies with diaper rash: you need to get the moisture and the heat out. Swimmers have this problem a lot. They can get irritation or an infection of the hair follicles, called folliculitis, from all the time they spend sitting on the pool deck. That can be a bit more stubborn to treat, but for everyday swimsuit issues, it’s best to just let things dry out.
If you’ve experienced discomfort this summer or have more questions about keeping you and your family safe in the summer, make an appointment to discuss your specific issues.