As the weather becomes warmer and stay-at-home orders are lifted, we are all anxious to get outside, whether that means going to a park, the pool, or on a hike. With increased outdoor exposure comes increased risk for conditions such as excess sun exposure, poison ivy, and tick-borne illnesses. Below is some information on prevention and treatment of each of these conditions.
Excess sun exposure is very common during the summer months due to increased time outdoors. Sun exposure is highest between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm during the summer, but it is important to take precautions at any time of the day because excess sun exposure can put you at risk for skin damage. Skin damage from the sun can occur in as little as 15 minutes, and can lead to cancer. You can reduce the risk of sun exposure by wearing sunscreen SPF 15 or above, spending time in the shade, and wearing long sleeves, long pants, a hat, and sunglasses. Sunscreen wears off over time, so if you plan on being outside for more than 2 hours make sure that you reapply after 2 hours or after swimming or sweating. Some drugs can increase your risk for sensitivity to sunlight and getting a sunburn, so check with your healthcare provider to see if you are at particularly high risk.
If you are hiking or gardening, chances are you may come in contact with poison ivy, whether that is via direct contact with the plant, plant oils, or plant particles in the air. Signs and symptoms of poison ivy include: red rash, bumps, patches, streaking, blisters, swelling, and itching. A poison ivy rash can be quite uncomfortable and usually requires a visit with a healthcare provider for treatment with antihistamines and a prescription-strength steroid cream. An important thing to keep in mind is that the oil from the poison ivy plant is the cause of the rash and irritation, so when you think you have been exposed to poison ivy, it is important to wash everything with soap and water. This includes clothing, shoes, gardening equipment, and most importantly, skin. You can prevent poison ivy rashes by wearing long sleeves and pants when going outdoors and washing everything thoroughly after a day outside.
After hiking or spending time in a wooded area it is important to check your skin for ticks because some ticks may be infected with tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. If you notice a tick, remove the tick using tweezers and clean the area with soap and water. Symptoms of tick-borne illnesses include body aches, fever, fatigue, joint pain, and rash. If you have any of these symptoms and/or possible exposure to a tick, it is important that you see your healthcare provider. These diseases must be treated with antibiotics