Talking with U of M

Talking how to prevent, treat common summer skin issues with the U of M

Lori Fiessinger
Lori Fiessinger

As Fourth of July celebrations kick off this week, most people will spend more time outdoors, enjoying cookouts or taking a swim. Unfortunately, this exposure to more sunlight, irritating chemicals, biting insects or poisonous plants leads to annoying, yet treatable, skin issues.

Lori Fiessinger, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and dermatologist with M Health Fairview, identifies some common, preventable summer skin issues and how to treat them at home, if you get one.

Q: Skin can be irritated by parasites in lakes. Can you describe these irritations, like “swimmer’s itch,” and the practical tips on preventing them?
Dr. Fiessinger
: Swimmer’s itch is a rash that can happen after swimming in fresh or salt water. It happens due to a parasite from the water burrowing underneath the skin. It looks like itchy welts throughout the body, except in the areas a swimsuit would cover. To prevent this rash, be sure to check out where you are swimming prior to going. There are often reports issued for infested areas of water. Drying off well immediately after getting out of the water will also help prevent this rash.

Q: Some people don’t understand how to wear sunscreen, let alone wear it at all. What’s the key to proper sunscreen application and sunburn treatment?
Dr. Fiessinger
: You want to get a sunscreen that has at least an SPF of 30, is broad spectrum and water-resistant. It’s key to make sure you are applying a thick enough layer of sunscreen to keep your skin protected. To cover your body while wearing a swimsuit, you should use one ounce — or the amount of sunscreen that would fit in a shot glass. Reapplication is also key. Sunscreen only lasts about two hours. If you are swimming or sweating, it lasts even less time. You should reapply every hour then. 

Despite our best intentions, sunburns happen. It’s always good to reflect on how the sunburn happened and what you can do to prevent it from happening in the future. If you get a bad sunburn, make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. To relieve the pain, take cold showers, apply a moisturizer with aloe or an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or take an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory. 

Q: More sun can also lead to heat rash. What does this look like, and how do you treat it?
Dr. Fiessinger
: Heat rash is caused by sweat glands being blocked. Sweat gets trapped under the skin, creating tiny sweat filled bumps that itch. Heat rash does not require any treatment as it resolves on its own, but for unbearable itch related to heat rash, either using over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or taking an over-the-counter antihistamine can help. To prevent heat rash, try to reduce conditions that cause you to sweat a lot. Wearing light, cotton clothing in summer months, staying in air conditioning and taking cool showers can help.

Q: Tick and mosquito season has arrived, too. What’s the best way to prevent these bites, and then treat them, if bitten by either?
Dr. Fiessinger
: The best way to prevent bites is by either applying an insect repellant that contains 20% to 30% DEET or by using clothing to keep skin covered. For bug bites that itch, try using an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or taking an over-the-counter antihistamine. 

It’s important to remove a tick as soon as possible to prevent illness. Check over your skin thoroughly after you have been in a heavily wooded or high-grass area. If you find a tick, look up instructions online on how to properly remove it to ensure you get the entire tick. If you think the tick could have been attached for more than a day and a half, contact your doctor to discuss if treatment is needed to prevent Lyme disease. If you develop any rash around the tick bite site, contact your doctor immediately. 

Q: Many will brush through plants on hiking trails and some could be poisonous or irritating. How should someone take care of these skin issues?
Dr. Fiessinger
: I recommend that anyone who likes to hike becomes familiar with what poison ivy, oak and sumac look like to try to avoid exposures. If you think you may have been exposed to one of these plants, try to cleanse your skin gently with soap and ample water as soon as possible. If you are able to do this within 10 to 20 minutes of exposure, it can prevent rash. If you are delayed by an hour, washing may still decrease the severity of the rash. If your rash is mild, you can treat at home with cold showers, hydrocortisone cream and antihistamine pills. If your rash is more than mild, contact your doctor for treatment.

Lori Fiessinger, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and dermatologist with M Health Fairview. Her clinical interests include general dermatology, cosmetic dermatology and high-risk skin cancer patients, with a special interest in the diagnosis and treatment of melanoma.

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The University of Minnesota Medical School is at the forefront of learning and discovery, transforming medical care and educating the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and faculty produce high-impact biomedical research and advance the practice of medicine. We acknowledge that the U of M Medical School, both the Twin Cities campus and Duluth campus, is located on traditional, ancestral and contemporary lands of the Dakota and the Ojibwe, and scores of other Indigenous people, and we affirm our commitment to tribal communities and their sovereignty as we seek to improve and strengthen our relations with tribal nations. For more information about the U of M Medical School, please visit med.umn.edu.
 

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Talking how to prevent, treat common summer skin issues with the U of M
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