How You Can Treat Your Warm-Weather Skin Rash at Home

Whether it’s bugs, plants or heat to blame, find relief

Woman scratching her arm.

While showing more skin during warm weather can keep you cool, it also can make you more susceptible to certain kinds of skin rashes.

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Bugs, plants, heat and even water can cause a rash. Here’s how to recognize and treat some of these common warm-weather skin ailments.

Poison ivy and oak

When you touch poison ivy or poison oak, the plant releases oil called urushiol, which can cause an itchy, blistering rash. The rash shows that you’re having an allergic reaction to the oil.

“If the rash is small, and you are absolutely certain that it’s from poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, you may be able to treat the rash at home,” says dermatologist Amy Kassouf, MD.

Home treatments include:

  • Rinse your skin with warm, soapy water – and scrub under your nails.
  • Thoroughly wash the clothes you were wearing when you came in contact with the plant – and everything else that may have the oil on its surface.
  • Take a short, lukewarm bath and add a cup of baking soda or a colloidal oatmeal preparation, available at the drugstore, to the water.
  • Apply cold compresses to the rash.
  • Consider applying calamine lotion or a hydrocortisone cream, which are available at the drugstore, to the rash.
  • Consider taking an over-the-counter antihistamine medicine, which is available at the drugstore.

“Once you have thoroughly washed the area exposed to the urushiol, you can no longer spread it on yourself or to anyone else,” Dr. Kassouf says. “The rash sometimes feels like it is spreading because it appears in the most concentrated areas first, then in areas with less concentrated exposure.”

Dr. Kassouf says you should get checked by a doctor immediately if the rash covers most of your body, you have trouble breathing or swallowing, you experience swelling, or nothing seems to ease the itch.

Tick bites

Ticks are small, blood-sucking bugs that can range in size from a pin’s head to a pencil eraser.

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If you find a tick on your body, you should remove it, Dr. Kassouf says. Use tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin’s surface and pull it out. Then clean the bite site with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Tick bites are often harmless, and they may not cause any noticeable symptoms. If you are allergic to tick bites, you may experience pain or swelling at the bite site, burning sensation or blisters. If you experience difficulty breathing, seek emergency care.

Some ticks carry diseases. If you’re bitten by a tick and a red rash develops and expands into a bull’s eye pattern, see your doctor, Dr. Kassouf says. This type of rash is often the first symptom of Lyme disease.

The rash can be the size of a dime or the entire width of someone’s back and may also cause fever, headache, stiff neck, body aches and fatigue.

Swimmer’s itch

This itchy rash is caused by microscopic parasites often found in lakes and ponds and occasionally in ocean water. Swimmer’s itch is common in children this time of year after they go swimming or wading, particularly in shallow water.

Symptoms include small red pimples that tingle, burn or itch. The rash lasts for about a week.

Most cases of swimmer’s itch can be treated at home, Dr. Kassouf says. If you need relief, try a corticosteroid or anti-itch cream, apply cool compresses to the rash or take a bath with Epsom salts, a cup of baking soda or colloidal oatmeal. And try not to scratch.

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“Scratching may cause the rash to become infected,” Dr. Kassouf says.

Heat rash

Hot, humid weather can cause a rash when your pores are blocked and can’t release sweat, causing your skin to become irritated.

Friction on the surface of the skin often leads to heat rash. Adults usually develop heat rash on areas of skin that rub together, such as between the inner thighs or under the arms. Clothing that traps sweat and thick lotions and creams also can cause heat rash.

Because of their undeveloped pores, infants often develop heat rash on the neck, but it can also develop in skin folds such as the armpits, elbows and thighs.

Heat rash is rarely serious. “Exposing the heat rash to air and cooling off should help the rash to fade away,” Dr. Kassouf says.