Summertime: A time for contentment, relaxation and adventure. Camping, hiking, picnicking, sunbathing, whatever your outdoor passion, enjoy it to the fullest! However, while you’re frolicking in the sunshine, be mindful of a few annoying problems that can put a crimp in your summertime cheer, namely, sunburn, insect bites, and poison ivy.

Of course you’re ahead of the game if you’re able to avoid these irritating skin hazards, using a few simple precautions. But should you be unlucky enough to encounter any of these nuisances, rest assured that treatment is available. Following are some suggestions for preventing and treating such inconveniences, with multiple recommendations for each condition.


Prevention:   Slather your skin with a sunscreen that contains a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, at least 30 minutes before going outdoors. Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., limit your exposure to the sun. If you burn easily, or have been diagnosed with skin cancer in the past, take no chances: Cover up in the sun with long pants, long sleeves, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.

Treatment for Sunburn: For immediate relief, soak the sunburned areas in cold water or with cold compresses, to reduce swelling. If you are burned all over, take a soak in a cool bath to which you’ve added ground-up oatmeal. Brew up a pot of green tea, let it cool, soak a clean cloth in the tea, and use it as a compress. Apply a light coating of pure, 100 % aloe vera gel to the painful areas. Call your health care provider if your sunburned skin blisters, if you run a fever, or if you develop chills or nausea.

Insect bites

Prevention: Use a bug spray that contains DEET, the most effective insect repellent for use on the skin. Before going into wooded areas, treat your clothing with an insect repellent containing permethrin. You can also use products made with p-Menthane 3,8-diol, a chemical derived from the eucalyptus plant. One product, OFF! Botanicals, contains this ingredient.   Citronella is found in bug-repelling candles, as well as bug sprays. Follow label directions. To keep bees away, avoid wearing perfumes or scented products, and keep food and sodas covered.

Treatment for Wasp or Bee Stings: Scrape away the stinger, using the edge of a credit card or a knife blade. Soak the area in apple cider vinegar. Treat the area with meat tenderizer. Apply an aspirin paste (a crushed aspirin in water) to stop the itching. Apply a paste of baking soda mixed with a skin lotion. Apply one drop of tea tree oil to the site several times a day.

Treatment for Mosquito Bites:   Do not scratch! Rub an ice cube on the bite immediately to decrease inflammation. Apply Sea Breeze Astringent to stop the itching. Apply a drop of peppermint oil to the area. Use an over-the-counter anti-itch cream that contains hydrocortisone.

Poisonous plants

Prevention: Get a book and learn to recognize poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Before going outside, rub some Ivy Block (available over the counter) on exposed skin. Do not go near a burning brush pile, which may contain a poisonous plant. If you come in contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac, wash away the resin (urushiol) from your skin immediately, preferably in a shower or, at best, in the nearest creek. If not possible, clean your skin with rubbing alcohol or any product containing alcohol. Wash the clothes you were wearing in the washing machine with warm water.

Treatment: If a rash develops, apply 100 % aloe vera gel to the area.    Use a vinegar compress to dry the rash and relieve itching. Dab calamine lotion on the rash. Soak a cloth in cold milk and hold it against your skin. Treat the rash with witch hazel. Moisten a tea bag and apply it to itchy skin. Take a warm bath to which ground-up oatmeal has been added. Call your health care provider if you have a fever, or if the rash is severe or looks infected. 

Have a healthy and happy summer, and don’t let a skin hazard ruin your summertime fun!

Louise Whiteside, a long-time resident of D.C. and Maryland, now resides in the Colorado Rockies. She loves memoir writing, bargain hunting, cooking, country music, theater, and travel.

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