Bug bites, and rashes, and hives, OH MY!

Most summertime rituals -- enjoying the great outdoors, visiting the beach, having campfires – are a lot of fun. The accompanying and mostly unavoidable bug bites and rashes, however, are not. The most common are mosquito bites. These are closely followed by insect stings from bees and wasps, allergic rashes and hives from plant life such as poison ivy and eczema flares from swimming in chlorinated pools. Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to prevent and treat these nuisances so you can enjoy all that summertime has to offer.

Insects: Apply insect repellent before going into the woods or other areas where you may come in contact with bugs. Use insect repellents according to directions. Wear smooth-finished clothes that cover your body, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Button long sleeves and tuck long pants inside boots. Avoid loose clothes that might entangle a biting or stinging insect. Avoid bright colors. Avoid going barefoot or wearing sandals outdoors. Avoid wearing perfumed lotions, aftershave, or scented hair products during the warm months. Do not put your picnic out until you are ready to eat. Repack picnic food as soon as you are finished serving. If you are bitten, apply cool compresses to decrease swelling and calm the itch. You can also take a 24 hour antihistamine such as Zyrtec and additional Benadryl if needed. Apply over the counter 1% hydrocortisone cream twice per day until the bite resolves. If you know you or your child has a life threatening reaction to bee or wasp stings, make sure to pack your EpiPen or Auvi-Q so it is available in the event of an anaphylactic emergency. If you suspect you are allergic to certain insects such as bees, wasps, hornets or yellow jackets, you may benefit from allergy testing and if positive, allergy immunotherapy treatment, which can greatly diminish the allergy.

Swimming: If you suffer from a skin condition such as eczema, swimming in chlorinated or salt water can cause the symptoms to flare. To help prevent this, prior to swimming, apply a thick moisturizer such as Eucerin cream first, and then apply sunscreen. When you have finished swimming, shower and reapply moisturizer right away.

Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac rash: Poison ivy rash is caused by sensitivity to an oily resin called urushiol (u-ROO-she-ol), which is found in the leaves, stems and roots of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. When vacationing in outdoor recreation areas, be sure to stay on established paths and trails. Learn what the plants and bushes really look like in an outdoor setting and avoid them. Wear proper clothing, covering as much exposed skin as possible. You can prevent poison ivy rash or poison oak rash by swift removal of the toxic oil as soon as possible. The FDA recommends applying rubbing alcohol to the exposed area, rinsing with warm water, and then washing with soap and water. Many products are available to help make that process more effective and more convenient. Single use alcohol pads and hand sanitizer are available at most pharmacies and products like Tecnu Outdoor Skin Cleanser, available on line, can also be used on gear and clothing Use according to directions. For more severe or widespread rashes, especially if it's on your face or genitals, make an appointment with your doctor who may suggest taking corticosteroid pills, such as prednisone, for a few weeks to clear up the allergic reaction.

If you have any questions regarding your summer plans and managing your allergies, please make an appointment with one of our Allergy Health Care Providers to discuss the best prevention and treatment options available for you and your family. We want you to enjoy our beautiful summer weather!

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