Along with summer beach trips and barbeques come bug bites and rashes. While most of these are only a minor irritation, there are times when you should see a dermatologist for care. Watch for signs of infection- swelling, red, hot, painful skin, fever, puss- and see your doctor if you are concerned about infection. Do NOT scratch the area, as scratching can cause infection. Use over the counter medications to relieve itching, and most bites and small rashes will heal themselves within days.
Ticks are very common in Virginia. Insect repellants and protective clothing can prevent many tick bites, but you should still check yourself carefully after you have been in woodsy areas or underbrush. Removing ticks promptly is the most important factor in preventing the transfer of Lyme disease. Pull out ticks with tweezers, grasping as close to the skin as possible and pulling gently so that the head doesn't detach from the body. Wash the area, but no ointment is needed. The bite usually itches for over a week. However, if you cannot remove the tick's entire body, develop a larger bulls-eye mark around the bite, or have additional symptoms like fever, you should be seen by a doctor for blood work to check for Lyme disease.
Poison ivy rashes can be avoided by learning to recognize the plant and avoiding skin contact with it. If you are unsure about the identity of a plant, use disposable gloves or washable garden gloves to handle the plant, and wash your hands and arms afterwards. Wash any clothing or gloves that contact the plant. Over the counter antihistamine or topical hydrocortisone creams can be used to reduce itching. For many people, a small area of a rash will clear on its own within one week. If the rash persists for over a week, is spreading rapidly, and is not responding to over the counter ointments, see a dermatologist. Your dermatologist may decide to use systemic steroids to control a widespread rash that is not going away.