WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 1: Summer in Bermuda is all about outdoor activities. Unfortunately, skin rashes caused by the sun, heat or swimming are common and can put damper on all the fun.
Solar dermatitis or sun rash is caused by exposure to strong sunlight or sunburn. It’s common here in Bermuda because we spend a lot of time in the sea and water reflects sunlight making the rays even stronger. The small, red bumps or blisters of sun rash can be extremely itchy.
Certain medications can make the skin more sensitive to developing a sun rash. Antibiotics like Tetracycline, Doxycycline and Bactrim, NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory painkillers like Advil and Aleve), thiazide diuretics (like Hydrochlorothiazide and Apo-Amilzide) and Glyburide, commonly taken by diabetics are just a few examples. Your doctor or pharmacist will be able to provide advice about medicines that are likely to cause a reaction.
In addition, some skin products such as creams, soaps, perfume and even various suntan products can increase sensitivity.
To help alleviate symptoms, a hydrocortisone cream can be applied to relieve the itching. Oral antihistamines are also effective, although most experts recommend topical creams because they have fewer side effects. Whatever you do, don’t scratch! A cool wet washcloth applied to the area or a bath with Epsom salt will bring comfort and relief for itching and promotes healing. The bath should be lukewarm and without any additional products like cleansers and lotions.
The skin can be treated with Aloe Vera, preferably products that don’t contain additional ingredients that may cause yet another unwanted skin reaction.
Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is very common when weather is hot and humid. It’s caused by blocked sweat glands that produce red bumps or pustules, often on the face and arms. Heat rash isn’t serious and usually clears itself up. Until it does, skip creams or ointments that can plug up pores and keep your skin cool during the day by dressing in lightweight cotton clothing and taking frequent breaks from the heat.
Most of us cool off in the summer in a pool or the ocean. Unfortunately, this too, can cause a rash.
A poorly chlorinated pool can cause what’s known as hot tub folliculitus, which causes little red bumps around hair follicles under your clothing or swimsuit. Itchy red bumps after a dip in the ocean can be a case of sea bather’s eruption, which is caused by ocean organisms embedding themselves within the clothing and injecting toxins into skin. Swimmer’s itch, evidenced by itchy red bumps with tiny blisters, can occur after a dip in salt or freshwater. In this case, the rash typically shows up on areas that weren’t covered by a swimsuit.
These rashes generally clear up on their own, but over-the-counter antihistamines and soothing or anti-itch products such as hydrocortisone, colloidal oatmeal products and menthol/camphor creams may provide relief.
My best advice to prevent summer skin rashes is to use common sense. Avoid direct sunlight when it is most intense around midday and early afternoon and use an appropriate sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF). If your skin is highly sensitive, try to keep in the shade and wear a sun hat and sunglasses with proper UV protection.
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire and Lindo’s Family Foods in Warwick. For helpful information, visit Lindo’s at www.lindos.bm.