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Taking the Heat Out of Summer Skin Flare-Ups

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Hives can be triggered by heat or sweat, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids and avoid becoming too hot.

Summer is finally here! It is time for your camping trip, family vacation, day at an amusement park, or visit to Grandma’s house. It may also be time for skin allergy flare-ups. Symptoms often include hives (raised, itchy bumps). Some people get dry, itchy patches. Sometimes, the rash can even have fluid-filled blisters. But these rashes don’t have to spoil the fun. Knowing the causes and being prepared can help make your summer outings enjoyable for everyone.

Dr. Julie McNairn, a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, offers the following tips for taking the heat out of summer skin allergies.

Beware of the sun.
Hives can be triggered by heat or sweat, so make sure you and your kids drink plenty of fluids, avoid becoming too hot, and wear sunscreen.

Be prepared.
Eczema can worsen in the summer, especially if there is excess sweating. Have a skin-care treatment plan. This may include having mild bathing products on hand. Check with your doctor to see if an antihistamine or steroid might help.

Beware of contact with certain plants.
Being exposed to poison oak, sumac, or ivy can lead to skin rashes. Here is a saying you can teach your children to help them avoid these poison plants: “Leaves of three, let them be.” In addition, some people are sensitive to the point that their conditions can flare up when in contact with grass or other plants. For protection, you and your children can wear long pants and long sleeves if outdoor plants cause a reaction.

Eczema can worsen in the summer, especially if there is excess sweating.

The eyes have it.
High pollen levels can cause itchy, watery eyes. Other allergens can also cause symptoms around the eyes. Be sure to tell your doctor if your skin allergies also involve the eyes.

Beware of bug bites.
Bug bites can cause a severe local reaction in some people. Insect repellant can help. Ticks can also be a cause. If a tick is discovered, remove the whole body and save it to show to your doctor.

And watch out for insect stings, too.
It is normal for bee and wasp stings to cause a minor rash. However, for people with actual stinging insect allergies, these stings can cause a severe reaction – in some cases anaphylaxis – and require emergency treatment. Always report the reaction to your doctor in case allergy testing is needed.

Allergens climb.
Summertime is the time for high mold counts, poor air quality with smog, and ragweed (depending on where you live), all of which can cause nasal allergy and asthma symptoms. And worsening nasal allergies or asthma can cause skin flare-ups.

Some people have year-round rashes.
Certain foods, medications, environmental allergens, and even sunscreen, certain fragrances, and nickel can cause rashes any time of year. A diary of what has been eaten or touched may help you and your doctor determine what might be causing the rash.

It may not be an allergy at all!
Infections are common in the summer and can cause hives or rashes. Not to worry – these rashes usually respond to antihistamines and time, though they might need other treatment. In addition, prickly heat or heat stroke can look like an allergy.

Get emergency treatment if needed.
“If any of these rashes are severe or involve breathing troubles, confusion, nausea, or circulation problems, get medical help right away,” warns Dr. McNairn.

If you or your child has already been diagnosed with skin allergies, a visit to your doctor can help you prepare for summer. Skin allergies can usually be treated with antihistamines, creams, and your regular allergy or asthma medications. Treatment for skin allergies depends on the cause.


Source: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology,

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, Spring/Summer 2010.