During the summer, it’s time to head outside to enjoy your favorite warm-weather activities. Being outdoors is good for you and you should take advantage of the many ways summer can benefit your health. But when temperatures rise and nature is in full bloom, threats to your skin are everywhere. Let’s look at some of the most common summertime skin issues—and how you can prevent and treat them.
For any of these skin problems, get medical care right away if your condition gets worse, you have difficulty breathing or swallowing, or have other severe symptoms.
Stay safe in the sun.
Human beings love the sun and it’s good for us when enjoyed safely. It can improve your mood and it helps your body produce Vitamin D. But too much sun can damage the skin and increase your risk of skin cancers.
I’m going to the beach. How do I avoid a sunburn?
- Find the shade. An umbrella at the beach. A park pavilion during a picnic. Take advantage of shade, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when ultraviolet (UV) rays—and your risk for sunburn—are strongest.
- Cover up. Wide-brimmed hats, long sleeves, and long pants are low-tech but effective ways to protect your skin. Or try clothing with built-in UV protection. (Don’t forget about your eyes—sunglasses with UV protection can block close to 100% of harmful UV rays.)
- Use sunscreen. Dermatologists recommend using an SPF 30 or higher and re-applying regularly, at least every two hours. And don’t skimp: each application should be enough to fill a shotglass.1
- Mind your meds: Some common medications can cause you to be extra sensitive to the sun. Talk to a MOBE Pharmacist to learn more.
I got too much sun. What now?
- Cool it down. Cool compresses and lukewarm baths can lower your skin temperature and bring relief. So can calamine lotion and aloe vera.
- Keep the water in. Use a moisturizer as your skin heals (avoid products that are petroleum-based, like Vaseline, or oil-based). Also, drink plenty of water; sunburn draws moisture toward the skin and away from the rest of your body, which can leave you dehydrated.2
- Use over-the-counter medication to ease pain and inflammation. If the pain and sun damage is more serious, consider medications such as ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory options. Talk to a MOBE Pharmacist or your health care provider if you need more support or suggestions—and to check for possible medication interactions if you use other medications or have any medical conditions.
Protect yourself from buzzing and crawling critters.
Summer means that all of nature is at its peak—including mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects that bite or sting.
Can’t wait for my camping trip. How do I keep the bugs away?
- Cover your skin. Keep bugs away by wearing pants and long sleeves. If you’re in an area where ticks are a concern, tuck your pants into your socks. You can even buy special clothing that has been treated with insect repellent.
- Wear insect repellent.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. If you’re also using sunscreen, put the sunscreen on first. Make sure to wash off the repellent when you go indoors.
So many mosquito bites! What should I do?
- Fight the itch. Scratching can make the itch feel worse. Plus, you run the risk of breaking open the skin, which can lead to an infection. Applying an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can help. You can also take an antihistamine to ease itching.
- Cool it off. For pain and swelling, use ice or cool compresses.
- Ease the pain. If the area is tender or painful, consider over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Watch out for poisonous plants.
Hiding among the green leaves and lush grasses of summer are plants that can irritate your skin—plants like poison ivy, poison oak, and more.
I love hiking. How do I avoid harmful plants?
- Stay on the path. If you’re camping, at the beach, or on a hike, stick to well-worn paths and don’t stray into densely wooded or heavily vegetated areas.
- Cover your skin. Just as with the sun and insects, covering your skin—with long sleeves, pants, shoes, and socks—is a good way to avoid contacting harmful plants.
Uh-oh, that was poison ivy. What do I do now?
- Soap it up. Wash your affected skin with lukewarm, soapy water. Wash clothing or any other items that may have touched the plant or your skin.
- Fight the itch. Apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion. You can also take an antihistamine to ease the effects. Be sure to avoid scratching or popping blisters.
- Ease the pain. Ice, cool compresses, or a lukewarm bath can reduce swelling. If the area is tender or painful, consider ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
With some simple precautions and treatments, you can protect your skin all season long. Which can help you safely cross items off your summer bucket list.
Want to learn about more ways to manage summer’s bumps, burns, and rashes? Talk with a licensed MOBE Pharmacist. If you find yourself needing any of the over-the-counter medications mentioned above, a Pharmacist can help you make sure the specific products you're considering are safe for your health status. They’ll also help you understand how all the medications you take—including prescriptions, supplements, and herbals—play a role in helping you feel healthy and happy. Get started today.
1. “How to Apply Sunscreen,” American Academy of Dermatologists, accessed May 6, 2022, https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/shade-clothing-sunscreen/how-to-apply-sunscreen.
2. “Sunburn & Your Skin,” Skin Cancer Foundation, May 2021, accessed May 6, 2022, https://www.skincancer.org/risk-factors/sunburn/.