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Preventing and Treating Skin Irritations During Summer Sports And Outdoor Activities

Itchy rash is symptom of contact dermatitis

Summer is a great time for sports and being outdoors. But it is also a time when your child or teen can develop skin irritations (commonly called contact dermatitis) as a result of contact between exposed skin and poisonous foliage such as poison ivy, oak or sumac (allergic dermatitis) or the residue of soaps, detergents, or chemicals in their clothes after washing (irritant dermatitis). Poison oak and rash on hand

Symptoms of contact dermatitis

Allergic dermatitis is usually limited to the area where the skin was exposed to the allergen, while irritant dermatitis is usually more widespread on the limb or body.

The most common symptoms of both forms are, however, the same:

  • Red rash;
  • Blisters, welts or hives; or
  • Itchy, burning skin


The same treatment options apply to both forms of contact dermatitis:

  • Immediately wash area with soap and water to remove any oils or chemicals from the substance.
  • To relieve itching, try:
    • Calamyn lotion
    • Colloidal oatmeal baths
    • Oral anti-hystamines (e.g. Benadryl)
    • Non-prescription topical hydrocortisone cream
  • Take your child to a doctor to obtain a prescription cream, lotion, or oral medication if:
    • Itching persists;
    • There are signs of infection;
    • Pain becomes severe; or
    • Rash rapidly increases in size and severity.


There are a number of steps parents can take to minimize the risk of contact dermatitis:

  • Visit an allergist for testing to identify substances to which he or she is allergic or which could irritate their skin;
  • Exercise caution in new or unfamiliar outdoor environments;
  • Take immediate steps to prevent the spread of the rash, especially where it results from an unknown irritant or allergen, which could lead to secondary infections;
  • Cover the exposed area;
  • Use barrier creams or lotions;
  • Educate your child to the potential dangers of certain irritants and allergens; and/or
  • Eliminate the potential hazard.

Sources: American Contact Dermatitis SocietyAmerican Academy of Dermatology, and the European Contact Dermatitis Society

Posted July 10, 2011