Summertime Skin: Lookout for these 4 Summertime Skin Issues
Summer is the season for getting outside and showing some skin. It’s also prime time for skin irritations and injuries, from annoying rashes to painful sunburns. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself.
Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 that shields against both UVA and UVB rays (look for “broad spectrum” protection).
“Make sure you cover all exposed skin with sunscreen – most people don’t use enough,” says internal medicine physician Adrian Secheresiu, MD, with LVPG Internal Medicine–Weatherly. “You need at least two tablespoons to fully protect yourself. Apply sunscreen to dry skin about 20 minutes before going outside to let it soak into the skin.” He also advises that you reapply every one to two hours, or after playing in water or strenuous exercise. “And don’t forget to wear a hat, sunglasses and other sun-protective gear,” Secheresiu says.
Heat rashes, caused by moisture being trapped close to the skin, are another com-mon summertime malady. “Choose fabrics like linen, cotton, and materials that wick away sweat,” Secheresiu advises.
Seek medical care if a sunburn or sun-related rash is markedly red or starts to blister, which can lead to infection. Also stay alert to signs of heat illness and heatstroke, including nausea, fatigue, and sudden confusion.
Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac all contain an oil called urushiol that can cause an itchy, blistering rash.
This oil can be spread through direct contact with the plant, indirect contact with gardening tools or other items that have touched the plant, or through airborne contact that occurs when these plants are burned, causing particles of oil to be released into the air. The rash cannot spread through skin-to-skin contact (the oil absorbs into the skin too quickly).
Family physician Victor Catania, MD, with LVPG Family Medicine–Tobyhanna, advises wearing long pants and sleeves if you think you may come into contact with these plants, and thoroughly wash your clothes and tools afterward.
Summer is also bug season. Topical insect repellents containing DEET or picaridin can help repel insects, as can permethrin, an insecticide that is applied to clothing.
You can treat minor bug bites with over-the-counter lotions that relieve itch and swelling. However, if you develop a rash that resembles a bull’s-eye, seek medical attention immediately. This is a potential symptom of Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted through the deer tick, which is very common throughout this region of Pennsylvania. Lyme disease can affect every part of the body and cause a range of symptoms, including muscle and joint pain, fever, and fatigue. Untreated Lyme can lead to serious issues with the brain, skin and other organs.
Internal medicine physician Shaymal Mozumdar, MD, with LVPG Internal Medicine–Nazareth Road, recommends carefully checking your skin and scalp after being outside, particularly if you’ve been in wooded areas.
“If you find a tick, have it removed by a medical professional, if possible,” he says. “We can remove all parts of the tick without trauma to the skin and immediately provide a dose of preventive antibiotics for Lyme disease.”
As you take steps to protect your skin, take note of your moles and other pigmented spots. Seek medical advice if you notice any of the following signs:
Asymmetry: One half is unlike the other half
Border: An irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border
Color: Color that varies from one area to another
Diameter: Anything greater than 6 millimeters, or the size of a pencil eraser
Evolving: A mole that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.
“Once a month, take a selfie of any moles that concern you and use them to monitor any changes,” Catania says.
Mozumdar, who performs skin biopsies in his office, says the fastest way to get diagnosed is through your primary care doctor if he or she also performs biopsies. “If we get a positive biopsy result, we can refer patients to a dermatologist for treatment right away,” he says.