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Prepare to treat common skin ailments

Have you looked in your medicine cabinet recently? If you still have expired cold medicine hanging around from last winter, it’s time to get rid of it and restock with the essentials for summer. Outdoor fun and adventure during the summer season puts your skin at risk for a variety of unpleasant ailments, including sunburns, bug bites and blisters. And that means you need to make sure you have the right medicines on hand.

“Many of the most common skin issues people experience during the summer can be treated at home,” said Stephen Evans, D.O., a primary care physician at Geisinger Kistler. “If you have the right supplies in your medicine cabinet, you can relieve the pain and promote healing while you check with your doctor about what to do next.”

Treating sunburn
The healthiest approach to sunburns is to avoid getting one in the first place. This means you should avoid the sun during the hottest hours of the day – roughly 10 a.m. 2 p.m. You should also use sunblock with at least SPF 30. Protective clothing, like lightweight long-sleeved shirts, rash guards for the beach, and wide-brimmed hats can help, too.

“Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States,” said Dr. Evans. “Reducing your exposure to the sun and sunburns can help reduce your risk.”

If you do experience a sunburn, here’s what you’ll need to treat it:

  • Over-the-counter pain reliever: Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce the pain.
  • Aloe: An aloe solution applied to your skin will provide soothing, cooling relief.

Treating bug bites and itchy rashes
Mosquito bites and exposure to plants such as poison ivy can give you a rash or make your skin itchy and swollen. To treat them, you’ll need:

  • Oral antihistamine: An antihistamine such as Benadryl can help to reduce the swelling and itchiness of bites and rashes.
  • Calamine lotion: Calamine helps treat skin irritation and itchiness when applied topically. In addition to bug bites and poison ivy, it’s also good for sunburns.

Treating blisters
Wearing a new pair of shoes or overdoing it with yard work can cause blisters on your feet and hands. They’re generally not dangerous as long as you keep them clean. If you have blister smaller than a pea, it will probably heal on its own without treatment. To treat larger blisters, you’ll need:

  • A needle and rubbing alcohol: Use the rubbing alcohol to clean the needle. Use the needle to puncture the side of the blister and drain the fluid. Do not do this if you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer or heart disease, since your risk of infection is higher.
  • Petroleum jelly: Cover the blister with petroleum jelly to promote healing.
  • A non-stick bandage or moleskin pad: Use a protective covering to keep the blister clean and to avoid rubbing and friction that could make it worse.

“Blisters are prone to infection if not kept clean,” said Dr. Evans. “Watch out for signs of an infection, which include a fever as well as redness, swelling, drainage, and puss from the blister.”

Stephen Evans, D.O., is a primary care physician at Geisinger Kistler in Wilkes-Barre. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Evans or another primary care physician, please call 570-829-2621 or visit


wellness medicine cabinet summer