Summer Safety Skin Tips
Beach picnics, backyard barbecues, kids running barefoot through the sprinklers. These are the joys of summer. Until uninvited guests show up. Yellow jackets may attack anyone who interferes with their beeline for the food. Ticks may lurk along hiking trails. A rusty nail hidden in the grass or the sand can puncture a tender foot that lands on it. An unleashed dog that wanders over may react unfavorably to being petted as the apologetic owner rushes up and says, “He’s never done that before.”
These and several other summer hazards involve injury to the skin. And skin is what California Skin Institute’s board-certified dermatologists specialize in. Here’s how we advise handling the skin injuries that summer can bring.
Make Prevention a Priority
While prepping for summer fun, no one wants to focus on possible unpleasantries. But it’s best to take a few simple steps in that direction. While mishaps can’t be predicted, minimal prevention can minimize the outcome. Step one is to pack along a first aid kit. Here are some others:
Make sure everyone in your family, including you, is current on tetanus shots. Five doses are given during childhood with a sixth during adolescence. After that, one shot every ten years is recommended. Tetanus is an opportunistic bacterial disease that enters the bloodstream through a cut or wound causing pain and muscle spasms. If untreated, it can be fatal.
The tetanus vaccine, developed in 1924, became available in the United States in the 1940s. Its use resulted in a 95% decrease in the rate of tetanus. Anyone who is unvaccinated needs a tetanus shot within 48 hours of getting a puncture wound.
Stock up on insect repellent.
Especially in areas where Zika-carrying mosquitoes or Lyme disease-carrying ticks may be present. DEET or diethyltoluamide has been the gold standard ingredient but some people report experiencing side effects. New products containing botanical repellents are reported by scientific journals to be effective. In 2005, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) granted approval to two alternatives to DEET—picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus—for protection from mosquitoes. Read the label and choose the option best for your needs.
Keep foods in the kitchen or the cooler until it’s time to eat to help keep away yellow jackets and ants. Pop mesh covers over foods on the table. Whisk away used plates with food remains to trash and compost bins as far from your picnic or camping area as possible. Seal up and store leftovers.
When going for a hike in the woods, wear long pants tucked into ankle high hiking boots to keep ticks from hitching a ride on your skin. And a long-sleeved shirt if possible. Opt for light colors so you can easily spot a tick on you and others. Make sure you know what a tick looks like. Check yourself and kids for ticks afterwards, especially the scalp, neck and behind the ears.
Slather on sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. Reapply every few hours. Also wear UV-protective sunglasses and a hat with a full brim of at least four inches. For more on sun protection, you can read our recent article here.
When the Dog Bites, When the Bee Stings – What to Do
The sooner you remove a tick, the better. A tick needs to remain attached for 36 hours before Lyme disease can be transmitted, so remove a tick as quickly as possible. Forget the folklore and instead rely on tweezers. Make sure you get the whole tick. If a red circular rash, fever, swelling, headaches, fever or pain develops, call a doctor or urgent care center.
Apply a clean cloth to stop any bleeding. Clean the bite area with soap and water then apply antibiotic ointment and an adhesive bandage. Check with the owner to make sure the dog has had its rabies shots. See your dermatologist as soon as possible. Dog bites can cause infections that require antibiotic treatment.
First rule out that whoever’s been stung is not allergic. Remove the stinger gently with your fingernail or a gauze cloth. No tweezers, as that could squeeze more venom into the skin. Clean the area with soap and water. Apply a cold pack to reduce pain and swelling. Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen in the proper doses if pain occurs. Go to the emergency room or urgent care center if swelling occurs elsewhere and/or dizziness, nausea and difficulty breathing. Any of these signify an allergic reaction.
For mosquito bites, apply calamine lotion or a hydrocortisone cream to quell itching. Another option is to take an over-the-counter oral antihistamine. Watch for signs of allergic reaction or infection.
If you experience any serious symptoms after a dog or bug bite, such as a rash, fever, or body aches, see your doctor or a board-certified dermatologist immediately. Make sure you tell the doctor about your recent bite so that they can examine you for a transmitted disease.