Summer Remedies: Soothe Outdoor Nuisances

Summer Remedies: Soothe Outdoor Nuisances

Don’t let painful sunburns or green swimmer’s hair your summer fun. Utah State University Consumer educator, Teresa Hunsaker, shares her top treatments to soothe outdoor nuisances.

After the long wet spring we have had this year we are all ready for summer to be here. But before we get too far into summer, let’s consider some of the little annoyances and how to treat them.

Swimmer’s Hair

There are a number of things that do work…like the baking soda, and then treating with a deep conditioner.

Or, tomato juice, ketchup, or tomato sauce. Leave in 15 minutes, rinse and condition.

I have also known people to try and keep it at bay by wetting the hair, then using a bunch of conditioner on the hair, placing it under the swim cap, and then rinsing it out after the swim.

I have light brown hair, and even mine would get a greenish tint to it, and it seems like my mom would make me rinse with vinegar every week.

As you can see, whatever you choose, they will be drying to the hair so need to be followed up with a deep conditioner.

Insect/Mosquito Bites

Most insect and spider bites cause swelling, redness, itching, and even some pain. These reactions are common and last from a few hours to a few days. There are some helpful home treatments for most. But it is important to note that some people have more severe reactions to these bites and stings, and for some it may even mean something as severe as anaphylactic shock, so care must be taken.

While a mosquito may look like a fairly harmless little creature, and the bite a bit annoying, it is important to remember that these blood sucking little pests also transmit harmful diseases…and in this area now we are concerned with West Nile Virus. So care should be taken in the first place when going outside, especially after the long wet spring we have had.

But once you do have a bite, here are some relief possibilities:

· The simplest anti-itching compound to get right on the bite is baking soda paste (made with water).

· A cool compress will also help keep the itch at bay.

· Calamine lotion and other similar creams, such as a Corticosteroid cream.

· Antihistamines like Zyrtec and Benadryl may also be helpful.

Swimmer’s Ear

Water, when not properly drained out of our ears can bring a bacteria or fungus with it, that can cause infection.

A mixture of equal parts vinegar and isopropyl alcohol placed in the ear a few drops at a time. Allow to set in the ear for about 5 minutes, then allow to drain out. This is a very effective way to help prevent, or even clear up a mild case of swimmer’s ear. Avoid the problem altogether by keeping the ear dry after swimming or bathing by using a cotton swab to gently help release the water.

A little ibuprofen and some heat on the ear that is mildly infected will also help relieve some of the discomfort. If the pain persists more than a day or two, see a doctor.


When treating sunburn you can use some home remedies, but some commercial ones may be just the ticket too.

Anything with aloe vera in it, especially straight from the plant will be a big help in reducing the “heat”. Also, taking some acetaminophen or ibuprofen will relieve the discomfort, swelling, and pain.

One source ( provided the following recommendations:

· A cool bath made with about a half cup (125 mL) of oatmeal, cornstarch or baking soda will bring down your skin temperature and help relieve itchy, irritated skin. Repeat as needed, but don’t use soap, which will cause more irritation. Pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it. Adding about a cup of vinegar (250 mL) to a cool bath also helps reduce pain.

A personal favorite of mine, having grown up in Arizona, is to dab or mist vinegar straight onto the sunburned skin.

This same source also gave this word of caution when it comes to the blistering process in second degree burns:

· Blisters shouldn’t deliberately be broken because the serum inside the blister helps the healing process. Breaking a blister can make it more painful, slow healing and bring an increased risk of infection.

Heat Rash

Heat rash is a pretty common “summer” annoyance that is caused when the body overheats and sweat is trapped next to the skin. It is also nicknamed “prickly heat” because it makes the skin feel prickly and even causes small red dots to appear on the skin. The nice thing about heat rash is it is pretty easy to treat with items from the kitchen.

Here are some basic steps to follow:

· First, get out of the heat if possible and to somewhere cooler…even into the shade.

· Second, expose the skin to air—breezes, fans, etc.

· Third, take a cool shower or bath using a non-deodorant soap. A soothing cool bath mixture is 1 cup baking soda and 1 cup oatmeal flour (made by pulsing oatmeal in the blender) stirred into your cool (not hot) bath water.

· Of course there are also things like calamine lotion and over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams or sprays.

Note: Sprinkling cornstarch on your skin in hot humid weather can help you avoid heat rash.

For a more extensive look at heat rash information go to .

Poison Ivy/Oak

If you suspect you have been in poison ivy or poison oak, immediately get to where you can carefully remove clothing and get it in the wash, and also wash any areas of your skin that may have come in contact with it. The oils of these plants will seep into your skin within just a little while, and that is when the “itching and burning” and rash begins.

Once a rash does appear there is not much you can do to make it go away…except give it time. There are some things you can do to minimize the itch and the pain. Here are a few:

· Keep the rash clean.

· Try not to itch it…digging and itching can break the skin and cause infection.

· Make a cool compress with cool water in a ziplock bag, or other commercial type cold packs.

· Apply rubbing alcohol to help relieve the itching and to dry up the “weeping” rash.

· Apply over the counter medicinal creams like Calamine Lotion.

· Bathe in Aveeno Bath, colloidal oatmeal that will help with the itching.

· Make a paste with baking soda and water and apply to the rash…helps dry it up and helps with itching too.

Note: Just as an FYI, there is a product called Ivy Block that can help with protect you from the sap of Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac in the first place. Found in outdoor/hunting stores, or the outdoor section of “super” stores.

If you have any questions, contact Teresa Hunsaker at the Family and Consumer Science Education Department at the Weber County USU Extension office at (801) 399-8203 or online at

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