Itching for Summer?

Summer in Canada provides so many opportunities to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. It also provides a wide array of annoyances such as mosquitoes, swimmer’s itch, poison ivy, prickly heat rash and sunburn to name a few, that can leave us itching and scratching.

Swimmer’s itch is actually an immune reaction. Larvae from a parasite are deposited into our lakes and slow-moving water systems. When larvae penetrate the skin of an unsuspecting swimmer, they die, and cause an inflammatory immune reaction. The resulting angry red raised bumps can be intensely itchy.  Showering off after swimming and brisk towelling can help to limit the effects. Swimmer’s itch typically clears up on its own in a few days, although in some cases the rash can last up to a week. In the meantime, you can control the itch with over-the-counter antihistamines or anti-itch creams. Other remedies include soaking in a bath of Epsom salts, baking soda or oatmeal or applying a paste of baking soda and water to affected areas.  In some severe cases, your doctor may recommend a prescription medication.

Poison ivy and its relatives, poison oak and poison sumac, are the bane of many golfers, hikers and campers.  At the first sign of this intensely itchy rash, prepare to pamper your skin for three weeks.  It can start with a thin line of red bumps where you brushed against a plant.  Blisters and new patches can occur for up to two weeks.  Be sure to cleanse your skin immediately to remove the oil from the plant. Scratching the rash won’t usually spread it to other parts of the body, but the resin from the plant can remain for months on clothing, shoes and tools. Ease the itch with cool compresses, calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream or oatmeal baths. Don’t scratch!

Prickly heat rash is an itchy rash of small, raised red spots that cause a stinging or prickling sensation on the skin.  It usually occurs a few days after exposure to hot temperatures and can develop anywhere on the body, but most commonly on the face, neck, back, chest and thighs.  Excessive sweating can result in sweat becoming trapped beneath your skin, causing skin irritation and the characteristic heat rash. Prickly heat is not a serious condition and rarely requires any specific treatment. The rash usually disappears after a few days. Ease the symptoms by avoiding excessive heat and humidity, wearing loose cotton clothing, keeping your skin cool, and applying calamine lotion.

Mosquito bites and sunburn are best kept at bay by limiting exposure, wearing loose, tightly woven clothing and choosing and using the most appropriate sunscreens and repellents.

Your pharmacist can help you choose the right products to protect and treat your family, based on skin type, age, causative factors and skin condition. Don’t let itching and scratching ruin your summer fun!

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