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Identify and Treat Eight Summer Skin Rashes

Consider this your seasonal survival guide for thwarting everything itchy, spotted, and red all over.

Whether you’re in the woods wearing your hiking treads thin or on the patio working the Weber, itchy bumps and painful blisters don’t have to wreck your warm-weather plans—as long as you have a plan of attack for getting rid of your gnarly skin infection fast. Enter our guide to all things summer rash-related. Use it to identify and treat skin problems like poison ivy, heat rash, and chigger bites, and fend off future run-ins with redness.

But before you self-diagnose, remember this: While summer rashes can usually be cleared up with an over-the-counter cream, skin infections that come with a fever, headache, shortness of breath, or abdominal pain require a trip to the doc, warns Lewis Nelson, M.D., a New York City-based emergency medicine doctor and medical toxicologist.

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Heat Rash (a.k.a. Prickly Heat)

What it looks like: Small zit-like bumps on the back and chest, or deep, painful, acne-like breakouts in more severe cases.

How you get it: In hot, humid weather, excess sweating can clog pores, causing the breakouts.

Treat it: Use an anti-itch cream with a combo of camphor and menthol, like Sarna Original Lotion ($12,, calamine lotion, or 1% hydrocortisone cream to help relieve discomfort. Otherwise, you need to wait for the pores to open up on their own for the rash to go away.

See a doc if: You’re still itching after a week or if the rash doesn’t go away on its own. A physician may prescribe a stronger cortisone cream or an anti-acne medication to exfoliate skin and open pores.

Your best defense: Be mindful when you know you’re going to sweat. Skip heavy moisturizers; pick oil-free, non-comedogenic sunscreen; and wear loose-fitting clothing instead of sweat-trapping spandex.

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Swimmer’s Itch

What it looks like: Small, red, and very itchy bumps or blisters that may also burn.

How you get it: Swimmer’s itch is actually an allergic reaction to a parasite found in open water. It burrows into skin and causes an inflammatory reaction.

Treat it: Use anti-itch cream, 1% hydrocortisone cream, or an antihistamine to stop the itch. Colloidal oatmeal or baking soda baths can also soothe skin.

See a doc if: Symptoms don’t disappear after a week.

Your best defense: If you’ve been in infested water, towel off after swimming to decrease your chances of developing the itch.



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