Summer in Minnesota is synonymous with frequent trips to the cabin up, vacations up North, day hikes and camping for many local families.
But all that warm-weather outdoor fun can cause some major skin issues. Fortunately, most rashes, spots and bumps are easily treatable.
Here are some of the most common summertime conditions I see in my pediatric dermatology patients:
Bug bites: These inevitable skin irritations are unavoidable in Minnesota, especially among active children. In the same way that little kids develop bad rashes when facing viruses and infections, they often have more severe reactions to things like mosquito bites.
Some bites can result in a persistent rash called papular urticaria. This occurs when a child’s immune system over reacts, creating a recurrence of bumps, similar to hives. Sometimes it can last for months. This reaction, however, responds well to antihistamines and topical steroids, and eventually burns out.
Tick bites: A top concern when discussing tick bites is Lyme disease. The deer tick, a small eight-legged creature that’s about the size of a pin head, transmits this disease. Lyme disease often causes a red, ring-like rash called erythema migrans, which typically develops one to four weeks after the bite.
Although this rash will disappear without treatment after about six weeks, the Lyme disease will still be present. Patients need a blood test to confirm a diagnosis. Fortunately, the risk of transmission is lower if the tick is removed within 24 hours. Because there are 13 known tick species in Minnesota — most of which don’t cause Lyme disease — try to save any tick you find so you can show it to your provider to ensure proper identification.
Phytophotodermatitis: It’s the other “lime” disease. This is a skin sensitivity to chemicals found in certain plants and fruits — exclusively triggered by exposure to sunlight or other ultraviolet light. Lime juice, celery, wild parsley, meadow grass and giant hogweed are common culprits. Affected areas can look sunburned or blistered or turn brown.
Often infants come into contact with these products after touching their parents’ hands. Sometimes kids can even develop these patches on their chin after drinking lemon or limeade — parents can, too, after sipping margaritas! This type of rash fades with time and no treatment is usually necessary.
Sun exposure: Protection from the sun is more important now than ever before. Rates of skin cancer continue to increase. For infants younger than 6 months, barrier protections such as hats and protective clothing are a first line of defense, but sunscreens also are critical if you’re expecting significant sun exposure.
Sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide with SPF 30 or more are recommended for children. Sunscreen products with DEET aren’t recommended because the chemical can penetrate the skin more quickly resulting in higher than advised concentrations of chemicals.
Contact dermatitis: Poison ivy, oak and sumac are all notorious for causing contact dermatitis. More than 85 percent of the population is sensitive to these plants and will show a rash within 24 to 48 hours of exposure. The fluid from the resulting skin vesicles isn’t contagious.
However, the irritant oleoresin from these plants deposited on gloves, pants and other clothing can stay active for many months. To prevent repeat exposure, wash clothes and don’t reuse contaminated gloves or clothing.
Pay special attention when having campfires. If these plants are burned, the resin can become airborne and result in a significant facial rash with swelling that’s often mistaken for infection.
As summertime in Minnesota approaches, keep these common conditions in mind to help you and your family enjoy rash-free outdoor fun! If you have any questions or concerns about these or other summertime skin issues, contact your primary care provider or a dermatologist.
Dr. Kristen Hook is an assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She sub-specializes in pediatric dermatology and is one of the only board-certified pediatric dermatologists in and around the Twin Cities. Hook practices at the University of Minnesota Health Pediatric Dermatology Clinic at the Masonic Children’s Hospital. Learn more at dermatology.umn.edu.