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Q. During the summer, my skin can get bumpy, red and blotchy. What can I do to take care of my skin?

A. Without examining you, I can only offer some information about common summer skin problems and ways to prevent and treat them.

A good rule of thumb to protect your skin is to avoid too much time in direct sunlight during the day when the sun is most strong. Wear protective clothing such as a wide-brimmed hat and apply a “broad-spectrum” or “full-spectrum” sunscreen designed to protect you from harmful ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB). Your sunscreen should include any of these ingredients: avobenzone, cinoxate, ecamsule, menthyl anthranilate, octyl methoxycinnamate, octyl salicylate, oxybenzone or sulisobenzone.

Also, use a sunscreen with 30 SPF, or sun protection factor—but keep in mind that a sunscreen is most effective when applied generously 30 minutes before outdoor activities and reapplied every two hours or more frequently if needed.

Severe sunburn can lead to sun poisoning which can cause painful blisters, fever, nausea, chills, dizziness, rapid pulse, rapid breathing, dehydration and even shock. Someone with those symptoms should be seen immediately. In the meantime, damp compresses and a cool bath without soap can help reduce the heat and pain. Also drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and take an over-the-counter pain medicine if needed. Be sure to avoid popping blisters to avoid infections. Minor sunburns can be soothed with over-the-counter creams or gel.

Heat rash occurs when sweat gets trapped beneath the skin and sweat glands become clogged. To prevent heat rash, wear light, loose-fitting clothing and avoid using heavy creams that can block skin pores. To treat the rash, keep skin cool and use cool-water compresses and calamine lotion or over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to reduce itching.

Poison ivy, poison oak, chigger and tick bites are also common during summer months. For mild “poison” rashes, cool showers, calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream can help relieve symptoms. For severe rashes and those on the face, eyes or genitals, be sure to see a doctor. An oral corticosteroid may be prescribed to reduce itching and swelling.

Treat chigger and tick bites with over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to relieve itching. If you are concerned about a tick bite, which can be linked to Lyme disease, visit your physician.

If you have additional concerns, follow up with your doctor. He or she will be able to give you treatment most appropriate for your condition.

—James Bancroft, MD, RWJ Family & Internal Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton

This content is intended to encourage a healthy lifestyle. For medical advice and treatment, see a physician.