Summer Troubles, Begone!
NEW YORK (MainStreet)--The hit Bananarama song "Cruel Summer" may have been about loneliness, but the summer months can be pretty cruel on our bodies, too. From insect bites to prickly heat rash, there are several common maladies that can put a damper on the fun of the season. The good news: You can often save yourself a trip to the doctor's office by following some simple do-it-yourself tips to ease pain, itching or discomfort just keep in mind that if symptoms last for more than a week or two, it's best to get checked out by a professional. Read on for our favorite home remedies for six of summer's biggest annoyances.
If you're experiencing the sting of a sunburn, you don't have to suffer until the burn eventually fades. To reduce inflammation, apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone 1% ointment twice a day, says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at the Mount Sinai Medical Center.
To soothe the pain of the burn, Dr. Zeichner recommends soaking a washcloth in a bowl with cold whole milk and ice cubes for 5 minutes, then applying the washcloth to the skin as a cold compress for 10 minutes. "The proteins in the milk will soothe the skin," he says. You can also experience relief by applying aloe containing moisturizing cream to the affected areas, Dr. Zeichner adds.
Another way to soothe sunburns at home is by taking a bath with baking soda, says Larry Millikan, M.D., professor and chair emeritus in the Department of Dermatology at the Tulane University School of Medicine. Prepare the bath by filling your tub with 2 to 3 inches of tepid or cold water and 2 to 3 tablespoons of baking soda.
Covered in mosquito bites? Not to worry there are several ways to ease the discomfort caused by these summer menaces.
Apply hydrocortisone 1% ointment to your bites twice a day to reduce inflammation, and apply calamine lotion two to three times a day to reduce itching, Dr. Zeichner recommends.Both remedies can be purchased over the counter at your local drugstore. You can also control itching by using ointments such as petroleum jelly, lard and margarine, says Dr. Millikan.
Prickly Heat Rash
Another common skin malady during the summer months, prickly heat rash is both unsightly and uncomfortable. "When you get overheated, your body's sweat glands can become clogged, resulting in a red, itchy rash," says Dr. Zeichner.
Treat heat rashes by applying an over-the-counter hydrocortisone 1% ointment twice a day and be sure to avoid the heat and stay in a cool, dry place. "The rash should resolve in a day or two," says Dr. Zeichner.
Spring isn't the only time for hives, watery eyes and runny noses some people also experience allergy symptoms during the summer months.
"While you can't totally avoid allergies in your environment, you can prevent your body from reacting to it," says Dr. Zeichner. He recommends taking a non-drowsy over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Cetirizine(sold under the brand names Zyrtec, Aller-Tec and Alleroff), every morning to keep allergy symptoms under control.
Poison Ivy, Poison Oak & Poison Sumac
If you accidentally come into contact with the dreaded poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac plants, you could develop an itchy rash on your skin that usually lasts one to three weeks. If you're absolutely sure that your rash is due to one of these poisonous plants, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends some useful home remedies.(If you're not certain what caused your rash, have a doctor look at it to make a proper diagnosis.)
First, rinse your skin right away with lukewarm water to remove some of the oil. Avoid scratching the rash because it may cause infection and instead ease the itching with remedies such as taking short, lukewarm baths in a colloidal oatmeal preparation that you can buy at your local drugstore. Other home remedies include taking a warm (not hot) bath with 1 cup of baking soda; applying calamine lotion to the skin that itches; and applying a cool compress to your skin.
Be aware, though, that if you have more serious symptoms such as trouble breathing or swallowing, a rash that covers most of your body, or swelling (especially if an eyelid is swollen shut), go to the emergency room immediately.
If you sweat excessively during the summer and your regular deodorant just isn't cutting it, Dr. Zeichner recommends using a clinical-strength over-the-counter antiperspirant that contains a higher concentration of aluminum salt than regular antiperspirants, such as Dove Clinical Protection Clear Tone Skin Renew Anti-Perspirant/Deodorant.
"Apply [the antiperspirant] at night when your sweating levels are lower than in the morning, which will allow the antiperspirant to work better than it would in the morning," Dr. Zeichner says.