With summer right around the corner, residents and visitors are bound to experience one of Puerto Rico’s hottest and most humid seasons.
But, while this weather provides the perfect setting for a trip to the beach, hiking through El Yunque National Rainforest, or enjoying the island’s vast offer of agritourism services, it can also trigger certain skin conditions and the spread of viruses.
People with sensitive skin or patients with dermatitis, eczema, and/or psoriasis should take extra precaution in the summer heat, as increased degrees can lead to rashes. However, this does not mean that they cannot enjoy typical outdoor activities.
The high salinity found in beaches helps seal wounds and minimize rashes. Pool water can also alleviate irritation and provide a cooling sensation.
Hydration and skin moisturization are essential to avoid rashes or other symptoms, which include inflamed patches of skin, soreness, excessively dry skin, plaques, blisters, itchiness, and red rash.
Patients who do not have access to doctor-prescribed medication can mitigate their symptoms by consuming off-the-counter allergy pills or applying hydrocortisone, aloe vera or Vaseline to irritated areas. To avoid triggering the aforementioned diseases or fungal skin infections, thorough hygiene is a must—including disinfecting shared areas and devices, such as gym equipment.
Contrary to popular belief, coconut oil is not recommended for affected surfaces because it can clog pores and accumulate larger sums of bacteria, which could ultimately worsen the upper layers of the dermis. Creams, soaps, and shower gels with fragrances, as well as alcohol-based toners, should also be avoided.
In addition to hot temperatures, another factor to consider is that, from June until November, Puerto Rico goes through a hurricane season.
While hurricanes do not impact the island every year—the last storm of large magnitude that made landfall was the notorious Hurricane Maria in 2017—the season, particularly throughout summer, is extremely humid. As such, locals are urged to be wary of mosquitoes that can potentially carry viruses like dengue, chikungunya or Zika.
Regarding the latter, on 2017 it became a matter of international concern due to its powerful symptoms and for inciting microcephaly on fetuses when stinging expectant mothers.
The P.R. Department of Health (DOH) indicated that “most people infected with the Zika virus do not get sick. If a mosquito bites an infected person while the virus is still in that person’s blood, they can transmit it to another person through bites.”
“Even if they don’t feel sick, travelers who return to the United States from an area with Zika must take measures to prevent mosquito bites for three weeks, so they don’t transmit Zika through non-infected mosquitoes,” the agency cautioned.
In order to prevent Zika and other mosquito-transmitted viruses, DOH recommends using EPA-approved repellents that contain diethyltoluamide (DEET), picaridin, p-Menthane-3,8-diol (PMD), or IR3535. The Health Department also suggests using mosquito nets if housing or lodging does not have air conditioning.
Despite these risks, with adequate protection, residents and travelers can find Puerto Rico’s summer season to be thoroughly enjoyable, especially for the outdoorsy types. If an unprecedented symptom appears, the affected person must visit a clinic or emergency room to test for allergic reactions or viruses.