Summer is in full swing and, after a dark and cold winter, many people can't wait to spend as much quality time in the sun as possible. There's certainly nothing wrong with getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D (provided you wear sunscreen, of course), but before you head off to the beach or the spend a day out and about in the sunshine, there are some skin issues to look out for this summer. After all, nothing ruins a summer vacation quite like having an itchy, painful, and irksome rash of some sort.
The good news is that most summer skin issues aren't a serious threat to your overall, long-term health — they're just an uncomfortable drag. So it's important to remember that the biggest summer skin risk is one that you won't always feel the effects of immediately — and that's spending too much time in the sun without adequate sunscreen. The pale folks among us have experienced enough painful burns to know that sunscreen is an absolute must. But, just because you tan like a champ doesn't mean the sun isn't causing damage to your skin and putting you at risk for skin cancer — a good tan is decidedly not worth that risk, so be vigilant about sunscreen.
But, that aside, here are four skin conditions that are common during the summer months — and what to do if you develop them.
Folliculitis is a common skin condition that's caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. It causes the skin to become red and inflamed — it's basically a form of acne that's incredibly itchy. The primary symptom is inflamed hair follicles, which will appear as small red bumps rising around the follicles. Folliculitis can occur at any time of the year, but it's more common in the summer because sweaty skin increases your likelihood of developing the condition.
And I have some bad news for those of us who love to live in workout clothes — this increases the risk of folliculitis because the tight but comfy attire compresses the hair follicles and makes it easier for bacteria to grow there. So, during the summer months, it's wise to change out of our workout gear as soon as we're done exercising and shower as quickly as possible.
If you suspect you have folliculitis, have your skin examined by a dermatologist in order to determine the best way to treat your particular case. For mild infections, an antibiotic or antifungal cream usually does the trick. In the meantime, use antibacterial soap and avoid shaving on or near the affected area of your skin. A warm compress and moisturizer can also help alleviate the itchy, unpleasant symptoms.
2. Yeast Infections
As many of us have learned the hard way, yeast infections are seriously uncomfortable and they can occur during any season. However, the heat and humidity of the summer months increases the risk of getting one. Again, certain precautions help — change out of your bathing suit right after a swim, wear cotton underwear, and try to avoid tight-fitting clothes. You'll also want to avoid using scented hygiene products because they contain chemicals that can put you at greater risk of a yeast infection.
As always, seek treatment as soon as possible if you do develop a yeast infection. If it's your first infection, see a doctor to ensure that you haven't misdiagnosed yourself. However, if you've had this uncomfortable condition before, you probably know the drill — you can head to the drugstore for antifungal cream, a vaginal suppository, or an antifungal tablet. But don't just treat yourself at home if you're pregnant — you'll want to have a doctor confirm that your condition is actually a yeast infection before you begin any kind of treatment.
3. Heat Rash
Heat rash is common in the summer for pretty self-explanatory reasons: It's caused when perspiration gets trapped under your skin due to blocked pores, so it can be developed simply from spending time outside or from engaging in intense physical activity that causes you to sweat profusely. The symptoms are blisters, bumps, and lesions on the skin — and, as always, cases range from mild to severe.
Heat rash typically clears up on its own as long as you stay out of the sun and avoid the heat — so, grab a book and crank up the air conditioning. Calamine lotion can help reduce the itching, and you should wear lightweight clothing while you wait for the rash to go away. Ice packs can also help soothe the affected area.
However, you should see a doctor if the symptoms get worse, you develop a fever or chills, or pus begins to ooze from the blisters or lesions on your skin — you could be dealing with something more serious. Swollen glands are also a red flag and a sign that you should see a doctor.
4. Poison Ivy
This is one of the most irksome summer skin conditions. Not everyone is allergic to poison ivy (and I certainly envy those who fall into this category!), but don't take any chances. If you spend a lot of time outdoors or in the woods, take a close look at photos of poison ivy leaves so you'll be able to identify it and stay the heck away if you encounter this awful plant. If you like to go hiking, try to cover up your skin as much as you can — and wash your clothes immediately when you get home.
If you've been exposed, wash your skin with soap and warm water STAT — getting the oil off your skin quickly may save you from developing the rash. Again, because the plant's oil is what causes the rash, keep a close eye on your pet when you take it for walks in the woods. If you think your dog may have come in contact with poison ivy, put on rubber gloves and give them a bath when you return from your hike.
The main symptoms of poison ivy are blisters, redness, swelling, and a whole lot of itchiness. Like heat rash, this is a condition that you can typically wait out with the help of soothing lotions, ice packs, and cool baths. It's not contagious and the majority of cases go away within one to three weeks. However, if the rash affects your eyes, your blisters begin to ooze, or your fever exceeds 100, it's time to see a doctor. You'll also want to seek medical attention if the rash continues to spread or if it fails to improve after three weeks. In those cases, doctors will prescribe an oral corticosteroid or an oral antibiotic.
Happy summer, and may the odds be ever in your skin's favor!