Dr Bassett on Summer Skin Allergies


I’m here today to discuss summer skin allergies.

Plant Dermatitis

Plant dermatitis, it’s a scary name. What does it mean. Millions of us will succumb this year to effects of poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak.  They can really do quite a bit to damage your summer, and our tips today will help you become more allergy and ivy-free.

Common Poison Ivy Plants

First, learn what the most common poison ivy plants look like, so you may avoid direct contact with them. Poison oak, ivy and sumac all contain an oily chemical known as urushiol, which really irritates your skin and can produce a severe allergic reaction. At least 50% of us in the United States are sensitive to this chemical and may react to one of the Rhus family plants, known to cause discomfort when you come in contact with this plant causing itchiness, redness, oozing skin, blisters and severe burning. As urushiol is an oily substance, water alone will not remove it, but be sure to use soap and water.

Poison Ivy Remedies

Some remedies include the use of skin barrier creams and lotions that contain ivy blocking compounds in them to prevent the oils from getting in to your skin.  You may also need to see a dermatologist or allergist for prescription strength creams and even oral steroids to hasten recovery, which may take up to 21 days for severe episodes to resolve.

Warm, summer hot days are associated with heat-related rashes that can occur from excessive sweating. It may appear as a rash, especially in areas of creases of the skin, and this type of summer rash often disappears without any treatment.  Obviously, dressing with loose, breathable fabrics allow for sweating to dissipate more easily. A dermatologist can also be consulted if it’s persistent and doesn’t go away as you may also have folliculitis or worsening of eczema as well.

Insect Allergies

Stinging insect allergy: Obviously, if you have a history of a life threatening allergic reactions to bees, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets and even fire ants you need proper evaluation and management by an experienced allergist to reduce your chances of going into anaphylaxis, which is a potentially life threatening allergic reaction.  There are a great deal more stings and bites of these venomous creatures during warm summer months. And, if you have a history of significant or life threatening reactions or allergic reactions, have an action plan in place including the use of an epinephrine auto injector, which can reverse the effects of a potentially life threatening reaction immediately.

For more information, please visit About.com.