How the Summer Can Exacerbate Rashes

Sign saying "Caution: Possible Swimmer's Itch" How the Summer Can Exacerbate Rashes

Rashes are a concern for millions of people with sensitive skin or allergies year round, but the summer can intensify things. Read on and learn how the hottest time of the year can cause rashes and what you can do to prevent them.

What to Know About Rashes in Summer

Unique Summer Rashes

Rashes can of course happen at any time, but there are definitely scenarios in the summer that are uniquely capable of giving you a rash. Consider one of the most common rashes: heat rash. While heat rash can happen at any time of year, most notably in babies and people on bed rest, this type of rash is much more likely to happen to just anyone during the summer. Also called “prickly heat,” heat rash occurs when the sweat glands become clogged. This is more likely to happen when a person sweats excessively, which is why summer is counted among its main causes. When your sweat glands get blocked, your body doesn’t stop producing sweat. Instead, the sweat accumulates under the skin, forming small, clear fluid filled bumps. The rash is often intensely itchy and tingly because the sweat is struggling to escape.

Another rash-causing condition is endemic to the northeast and New England waters, though it’s common in many places. Swimmer’s itch, or cercarial dermatitis, most often happens after exposure to warm water in ponds or lakes, though it can also be caught from saltwater. This rash is an allergic reaction to tiny parasites that are often found in warm waters. These parasites burrow into the skin looking for sustenance. Thankfully, the skin is not hospitable to these parasites, and they quickly die off. Your skin, however, will go into overdrive fighting these invaders off. Symptoms of swimmer’s itch include itching and red pimple-like blisters that generally only appear on skin directly in contact with the water. Skin beneath swimsuits, water shoes, or waders is usually unaffected. Symptoms can appear within minutes or several hours after contact with contaminated water.

Poison ivy, oak, or sumac contribute to some of the most intense and disruptive rashes that summer has to offer. These plants produce an oil that is an allergen to practically everyone, though some reactions can be a bit more mild. Exposure to these oils causes red, itchy rashes that quickly give way to blister-like lesions. This reaction is called contact dermatitis, and while there are many forms of the condition, poison plant reactions are among the most intense.

Preventing and Treating Rashes This Summer

So how do we prevent these summertime rashes? Or, if it’s too late, what can you do to treat them? Preventing rashes boils down to avoiding what causes them. With poison ivy, oak, and sumac, that means wearing long pants and sleeves while in the woods or brush. Avoid walking off the path, and stay away from any plants you cannot easily identify. Look for three-leafed plants, but keep in mind that poison ivy, oak, and sumac all look different, both from each other and among themselves. Follow posted guidelines and heed warnings while trail-walking. Treating a poison plant rash can usually be done at home, but it’s best to act fast. Wash the affected area gently and thoroughly. Then apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone, after consulting a dermatologist of course. If your reaction is especially severe, a doctor can prescribe more specialized treatment.

The best way to prevent heat rash is to keep your cool. Avoid sweating by dressing lightly and avoiding intense physical activity. Exercise in sweat wicking or loose fitting clothes during the coolest parts of the day, either morning or night. Keep fans going and stay in the air conditioning when possible. You may be able to treat heat rash with calamine lotion, much like poison ivy reactions. Wear cold compresses, use mild soaps, and take cool showers or baths to help cool off. Heat rash will generally go away on its own. With swimmer’s itch, avoid warm bodies of water like ponds and lakes if there are posted signs or notices about swimmer’s itch. Avoid marshy bodies of water where waterfowl like ducks and geese congregate, as they carry the parasite responsible for the condition. You can treat swimmer’s itch with over-the-counter anti-itch products that are designed to treat mosquito bites and other itchy irritations.


You should get out and have as much fun as you can this summer, but keep the many rashes the season can cause in mind. Have more questions? Looking for more advice or treatment for a seasonal rash or irritation? Call the professionals at Northeast Dermatology Associates today.

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