Sunburn, poison plants, and biting insects — hello summer! Venture into the great outdoors and you may come away with itchy, irritated skin. Here are five top causes of summer itch and smart ways to calm your skin.
1. Treat poison ivy right
At the first sign of this intensely itchy rash, prepare to pamper your skin for three weeks. It can start with a thin line of red bumps in the area where you brushed against a plant. Then blisters and new patches can appear for up to two weeks. Can your poison ivy rash spread? That’s folklore, not medical fact, according to doctors. New patches are usually a delayed allergic reaction. Be sure to cleanse your skin immediately to remove the oil from the plant. Ease the itch with cool compresses, calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream, or oatmeal baths … or try natural remedies. Don’t scratch! Learn more about poison ivy in this video from Dr. Leigh Vinocur.
2. Ease the itch of sunburn
It often shows up at night: red, burned skin that hurts with the slightest touch. If it’s a bad burn, you may get blisters and peeling, itchy skin that just begs to be scratched. Don’t! Relieve the itch and soothe the pain with a cool shower or cold, wet compresses. Moisturizers, aloe vera, or an antihistamine can also soothe your skin. Next time out, take these steps to prevent sunburn and don’t forget to protect your lips! Sun exposure destroys collagen and thins the lips over time.
3. Sharpen your mosquito sense
These sneaky insects quietly dive in for a blood meal and leave you with an itchy, red welt. Calm the itch with ice, a baking soda paste, or calamine lotion. Learn the mosquito laws of attraction before your next cookout. Beware dawn and dusk, when mosquitos are most active. Use bug spray or a natural mosquito product to shield your bare skin. Are you a mosquito magnet? If you feel like you’re the main course every time you venture outside, use bug spray but also wear long sleeves and pants – if it’s hot, linen pants can keep you covered, but cool.
4. Sting or bite, know your attacker
Bites from fire ants, spiders, and chiggers can cause an intense need to scratch. So, too, those that sting, like bees, and wasps. If you’ve been stung, remove the stinger carefully and watch for breathing trouble, hives or other signs of a serious allergic reaction. These require immediate medical care. For all kinds of itchy bites, clean them well, treat with ice, an antihistamine, or hydrocortisone. Did something creepy bite you in the night? Learn the symptoms and how to care for spider bites.
5. When heat itches
It doesn’t necessarily take a bug bite to get you scratching. Hot, humid weather can give you a bumpy, red, itchy rash as well. It’s called miliaria or prickly heat or sweat rash – and it may pop up in the folds of your skin or where your clothes rub against your skin. Clogged sweat ducts are to blame for the symptoms. Calamine lotion is one way to ease the discomfort, but it may take five or six weeks to clear up completely.