Prevent and Treat Common Summer Skin Rashes


Trail runners and hikers may love to experience Colorado’s great outdoors. But there are also a variety of skin ailments that can develop. To help prevent and treat common summer rashes and other skin issues, board-certified dermatologist Elizabeth Kiracofe, MD, FAAD recommends the following tips:

  • Heat rash: When your sweat glands are blocked, this can cause a heat rash and tiny, itchy bumps to appear on your skin. To help prevent a heat rash on hot days, wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothes made of cotton, and plan your outdoor activities during the coolest parts of the day when possible. At home, keep your skin cool using fans and air conditioning and by taking cool showers.
  • Poisonous plants: Many people get a rash after coming into contact with poisonous plants, such as poison ivy, oak, and sumac and wild parsnip. To prevent a rash from these types of plants, learn how to recognize them, and then avoid them. If spending time in a wooded area or a place known to have poisonous plants, cover up with clothing, including long sleeves, pants, socks, and boots. If you do come into contact with these plants, immediately rinse your skin with lukewarm, soapy water. Since the oils from poison ivy, oak and sumac can linger on objects for long periods of time, wash everything that may have come into contact with the plants, including your clothing. If you get a rash, leave any blisters alone, and avoid scratching. Apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream for relief. However, if the rash is extensive or not relieved by these medications, call a board-certified dermatologist.
  • Sunburn: Sunburn is better prevented than treated. To prevent sunburn, seek shade, wear sun-protective clothing — including a wide-brimmed hat — and apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing. Remember to reapply your sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating. If you do get a sunburn, put a cold, damp towel on the area for 10-15 minutes a few times daily or take baths or showers in cool water to relieve pain. You can also apply moisturizer or a hydrocortisone cream. Avoid creams that contain petroleum, benzocaine or lidocaine, which can irritate your skin.
  • Swimmer’s itch: If you notice an itchy rash on your skin after wading or swimming in a lake or ocean, you may have swimmer’s itch. This rash is caused by parasites that burrow into your skin on areas that your swimsuit didn’t cover. If you develop this rash, do not go back in the water. Relieve the itch by applying a corticosteroid cream or cool compress or by soaking in a colloidal oatmeal bath.
  • Seabather’s eruption: Also called pica-pica, this itchy rash develops in people who go in the Caribbean Sea and the waters off the coasts of Florida and Long Island, New York. It happens when newly hatched jellyfish or sea anemones get trapped between your skin and your swimsuit, fins or other gear. The best way to prevent this rash is by staying out of infested water — often noted in nearby signage. However, if you think you’ve been exposed, remove your swimwear as soon as possible and rinse in fresh water. To kill any larvae trapped in the fabric, wash your swimwear in hot water and put it in the dry