Rash, bug bites and tick bite: How to care for 3 common skin issues

Summertime leaves your skin vulnerable. Here are our tips on how to prevent and treat skin issues, and where you can go for care.

Summertime is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors. And with temperatures rising, it’s tempting to take on outdoor adventures in T-shirts and shorts, maybe even barefoot. But all that exposed skin leaves you vulnerable for three common issues this time of year: rash from poison ivy, bug bites and, specifically, ticks.

Don’t let creepy, crawly, itchy detour your outdoor fun. Beverly Kestler, APRN, a nurse practitioner with Norton Prompt Care at Walgreens, shares her tips for preventing these common skin issues, at-home treatments and when you should see a health care provider.

1.    Rash from poison ivy


  • Wear protective clothing when in the woods or working in the yard. Protective clothing can include long sleeves, long pants, a hat and gloves when handling plants.
  • Wash clothing right away after outdoor activity; the oil from poison ivy can linger on clothing.
  • Have a professional remove any poison ivy in your yard.
  • Keep a poison ivy kit on hand that includes rubbing alcohol, bottled water and soap. The sooner you wash the oil off the skin, the better chance you have of decreasing the severity of the rash.

How to treat:

  • The rash will resolve on its own, however, the itching associated with the rash can be unbearable.
  • Remove the oil from the skin as soon as possible with rubbing alcohol and/or a lukewarm shower with soap.
  • Try not to scratch; use over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams or an oral antihistamine to help ease the itchiness.
  • Oatmeal baths or baking soda (1 cup added to bath water), as well as cold, wet compresses, can help relieve itchy skin.

When to see a provider:

  • If the rash is near your eyes, mouth or genitals, or if it covers more than 25% of your body.
  • Rash does not resolve within seven to 10 days.
  • You have difficulty breathing or swallowing, your eyes swell or if you develop a fever.

Your health care provider may recommend creams or gels, prescribe a steroid dose pack or a steroid injection.

Related Content: Where do I go for seasonal allergy relief?

Also: Sinus infection treatment: Where do I go for care?

2.    Bumps on skin from insect bites — from spider or mosquito bite to bee sting


  • Cover your skin whenever possible, and use an insect repellent on exposed skin.
  • Wear shoes outside.
  • Never disturb an insect nest.
  • Avoid areas near stagnant water such as swamps or ponds, and watch for bees around flowering plants.
  • Keep food and drink covered when outside. Bees are attracted to sugary drinks.
  • Keep car and house windows closed.
  • Avoid using strong perfumes.

How to treat:

  • When stung by a bee, remove the stinger and clean the area with soap and water.
  • When bitten or stung, remove any jewelry around the area in case of swelling; ice the area for 10 minutes, remove, and repeat for 10 minutes; keep the area elevated.
  • Use over-the-counter pain relievers for pain, and use an antihistamine to relieve itching.

When to see a provider:

  • If you are stung or bitten around your mouth or nose.
  • If the area starts to ooze or the redness spreads.
  • You experience pain or swelling at the site of bite, or have any of the following symptoms: difficulty breathing, headache, nausea, weakness, chills or swollen lymph nodes.

Your health care provider may prescribe antihistamines for itching and over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce pain. Your provider may also prescribe an antibiotic if the area is infected.

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3.    Tick bite treatment and home remedy


  • Know where ticks live: grassy or wooded areas.
  • Treat clothing with permethrin, an insecticide that can kill ticks on contact.
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants when outdoors.
  • After you come indoors: Check your entire body, clothing and any gear for ticks.

How to treat:

  • If you find a tick, remove it as soon as possible. Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull the tick upward in a steady motion. Do not use twisting or jerking movements.
  • Clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

When to see a provider:

  • If you develop a rash that looks like a bull’s-eye.
  • You’re unable to remove the tick completely.
  • You experience pain or swelling at the site of bite, or have any of the following symptoms: difficulty breathing, headache, nausea, weakness, chills or swollen lymph nodes.

Your health care provider may prescribe doxycycline, unless it should not be used in your situation. The provider may start you on an antibiotic if it’s within 72 hours of the tick removal. If you retain the tick, it may be possible to identify the species and determine if it is a species that carries Lyme disease. If you can estimate the amount of time the tick was attached, it can help your health care provider determine treatment options.

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