Summer Itch or Rash?

Outdoor activities in the summer can result in skin irritation and itching due to a variety of causes.

  1. PAPULAR URTICARIA:  It is an excessive skin reaction to insect bites.  Crops of itchy, red bumps usually less than a half-inch in diameter appear over the exposed areas of the body.  They sometimes progress into fluid filled blisters grouped together.  Scratching them may lead to crusting and/or infected pustules.  The lesions usually last for days to weeks.  Despite the name urticaria, they are not hives, which are raised wheals usually resolving in hours.  The most common insects causing these reactions are mosquitoes, gnats, fleas, etc.  Treatments like topical corticosteroids to lessen the inflammation and oral antihistamines to relieve the itching can be helpful. Application of insect repellants to exposed areas before outdoor activities may help prevent the problem.
  2. CONTACT DERMATITIS:  Skin exposure to the urushiol oil from the leaves of plants like poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can cause severe redness, blistering, and burning sensation in sensitized individuals.  About 60-80% of individuals exposed to the urushiol oil become sensitized to it.  The condition usually begins 24-36 hours after exposure and can last a few weeks.  The lesions cannot be spread to other areas of the body through scratching or oozing of the blister fluid.  Because it can be a severe reaction, many patients will need corticosteroids by mouth for about a week to 10 days to control the condition.  Wearing long sleeves and pants, in addition to application of barrier creams before outdoor activities can be helpful in warding off the reaction in susceptible people.
  3. MILIARIA:  Prickly heat manifests as tiny red or pink spots over the face, neck, upper back, chest, etc.  This condition is caused by clogged up sweat pores which results in retention of excessive sweat which then leads to irritation and itching.  Friction caused by clothing can aggravate the problem.  This condition can be alleviated by using prickly heat powders, calamine lotion, staying in a cool environment, keeping the affected area clean and dry, and taking frequent cool and light baths or showers.  Occasionally, topical corticosteroids are necessary to provide relief.
  4. SUNBURN:  Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause red, irritated, burned, and/or itchy skin which can progress to blistering and open sores over the affected area.  Application of ice compresses and aloe gel can soothe the involved skin.  Avoiding excessive sun exposure, liberal use of sun block creams, and hydrating the skin with consumption of good quantities of clear liquids can be helpful.
  5. XEROSIS:  Xerosis is the medical term for abnormally dry skin.  Though excessive dryness is more common during the winter, prolonged exposure to air conditioned environments with little humidity can lead to dry and dehydrated skin.  Frequent bathing or showering and the use of strong soaps can remove essential skin oils causing the skin to be dry and itchy.  Applying a moisturizer thoroughly all over the skin immediately after a bath or shower will help in seal in the moisture and keep the water from evaporating, leaving the skin cool and moist.

The board certified allergists and trained staff at Black & Kletz Allergy in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area can answer your questions and concerns regarding many skin conditions and will provide time tested and scientifically validated advice.  Our allergists specialize in both adult and pediatric patients.  We have 3 convenient office locations which all offer on-site parking.  Our offices are located in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA.  The Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are also Metro accessible.  Please click Request an Appointment and we will answer you within 24 hours on the next business day.  For faster service, please call our office directly.  Black & Kletz Allergy prides itself in providing prompt quality care to the community in a caring professional setting.