Summer Ailments

young_people_splashing_in_ocean_small.jpgThe summer weather results in people going to the pool and spending more time outdoors.  Although these are fun and healthy activities, a few common ailments are seen more during this time of year that may interrupt your summer fun.



A sunburn is caused by ultraviolet (UV) light that comes from the sun and tanning beds.  It can occur when you stay out in the sun for too long, from a tanning bed, or even on a cloudy day.  Multiple sunburns throughout your life can result in skin cancer, wrinkles or other skin changes, and eye problems.

Certain medications can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.  Some of these medications include hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ), furosemide (Lasix®), amitriptyline (Elavil®), glipizide (Glucotrol®), amiodarone (Pacerone®),  tretinoin cream, doxycycline, and others.  Talk to your pharmacist to see if any of your medications can increase the chances of sunburn. 


Prevention is key to keeping your skin healthy.  Things you can do to prevent sunburn from happening include wearing a hat and covering your body with long-sleeved shirts and long pants; avoiding the sun from 10am to 4pm when the sun is at its strongest point; staying in a shaded area; and wearing sunscreen on all parts of your body that are exposed to sun light.  Look for sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or greater and one that is broad spectrum and protects against both UVA and UVB light. Sun screen should be reapplied every 2 to 3 hours or after you swim or sweat.


Taking a pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®), ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®), or naproxen (Aleve®) can help ease the pain associated with a sunburn.  Other treatment options include applying a cold compress or using a lotion or spray that contains aloe or a numbing agent in them.  Cass St Pharmacy Gundersen Health System carries many different products to help heal sunburn.


Poison ivy

Poison Ivy climbing tree

Poison ivy is a plant that can cause a red and itchy rash if you come into contact with the toxic oils, called urushiol, found on the plant.  You can also get poison ivy by touching clothing or animal fur that has been exposed to the plant oil.  The rash from poison ivy cannot be passed from person to person.  Poison ivy has 3 leaves coming off of a single stem and can be green, red, or brown in color.  The saying, “leaves of 3, let them be”, is often associated with identifying plants that cause poison ivy.  The rash can last from 1 to 3 weeks, may develop blisters, and can be quite severe in some cases.


Wearing protective clothing such as long sleeves and pants will help prevent direct contact with the plant if you are working near it.  It is important to gently wash your skin with mild soap and water and wash clothing right away if you suspect you have come into contact with it.  The quicker you wash the affected area, the less likely that a rash will develop.  Thick vinyl gloves can also help protect you when doing yard work.  Avoid being in the area if poison ivy is being burned as this can also result in the rash forming.


Most cases of poison ivy can be treated with over-the-counter products.  Oatmeal baths, cool wet compresses, and calamine lotion can help relieve itching.  Burow’s solution (aluminum acetate) or Domeboro® (aluminum sulfate calcium acetate) may help dry blisters associated with the rash.  Zanfel® is a wash that helps remove urushiol from the skin and allows the area to begin healing.  Over-the-counter steroid creams and ointments, available as hydrocortisone 0.5% and 1%, may not be effective at relieving itching.  A higher potency steroid cream or steroids taken by mouth may be needed to help relieve symptoms and must be ordered by a doctor.Green poison ivy with roots

Products that should be avoided in the treatment of poison ivy include creams and ointments containing antihistamines (i.e. Benadryl®), anesthetics like benzocaine, and antibiotics like neomycin and bacitracin as these can make the rash worse.  Oral antihistamines such as Benadryl® should also be avoided because they will not help relieve itching and can cause excessive drowsiness.

You should seek medical attention if the rash covers most of the body, or if the face or genitals are affected.  If there is significant swelling, the rash is draining pus or looks infected, or if the rash does not get better after 3 weeks, you should be seen by a medical professional.

Cass St Pharmacy Gundersen Health System carries many different products to help relieve the rash from poison ivy.  Talk to one of our pharmacists today so they can develop an effective and appropriate treatment plan for you.