Summer Skin Conditions (folliculitis, yeast, molluscum)

Many skin conditions have seasonal variation. With the arrival of long awaited summer weather, several types of skin conditions become more prevalent. Such skin conditions are often microbial in nature. We all have billions of microorganisms living peacefully on and within our bodies, but given the right conditions, certain bad-acting microbes can predominate and cause trouble for us.

Bacteria comprise a huge domain of microorganisms that coexist with us. Most are benign or even helpful to us. However, there are many species of bacteria that can cause us harm. With warmer conditions and the usual accompanied increase in physical activity, conditions are often right for bacterial rashes to arise. Folliculitis is a common bacteria-related skin condition that occurs due disruption of the hair follicle. It is often caused by friction or shaving, and is worsened by heat and perspiration. Folliculitis involves bacterial invasion of the hair follicle which provokes a response from our immune system. The result is usually multiple red tender pus-filled bumps on the skin. Folliculitis can occur anywhere on the body except the palms and soles. Treatment may not even be necessary for minor cases in healthy individuals, but in stubborn or chronic situations, treatment involves topical or oral antibiotics as well as advice on shaving technique or skin care.

Molluscum contagiosum is another common skin infection that can increase in prevalence due to summer activities. It appears as small skin colored or pink dome-shaped bumps with a characteristic central core or plug. A poxvirus causes molluscum contagiosum, and it is often transmitted from person to person through direct contact. Molluscum contagiosum in children is often contracted through playing with other children or due to participation in sports. Adults may contract the virus at the gym or through skin-to-skin contact. Typically, individual lesions resolve spontaneously within two to three months, but it is not uncommon to have new lesions appear for eighteen months or more before complete resolution. In order to reduce active lesions, patients often seek molluscum contagiosum treatment. In small children, active lesions may be treated with cantharidin, or “blister beetle juice,” which causes small blisters to form and eliminates active lesions within a few days. In older children or adults, lesions can be frozen with liquid nitrogen. Despite the resolution of active lesions, new lesions may occur over a period of months which may be removed on subsequent office visits.

In addition to bacteria and viruses, yeast and fungus can also take advantage of warmer and more humid conditions. These types of microorganisms particularly like to invade warm moist skinfold areas, but can also grow just about anywhere on the body. Once a yeast or fungal infection sets in, it can persist for long periods until it is treated. Yeast and fungal infections tend to appear as red scaly patches that typically itch. One common fungal infection occurs between the toes and is commonly known as athlete’s foot. This is usually treatable with a topical antifungal cream, but it commonly recurs as it is easy to contract at the gym, pool, or even at home if others are infected. Tinea Versicolor is another very common skin infection. It is caused by yeast that overgrows typically on the chest and back. It presents as small oval pink patches that become more obvious if the skin has become tan. If there are only a small number of spots, Tinea Versicolor may be treated with a topical medication but if it becomes more extensive, oral treatment is far more effective. It too may recur in susceptible individuals. Another common fungal skin infection is ringworm. It may be found anywhere on the body, and it usually presents at first as a small red bump that grows into a larger ring shape over time. It too is quite itchy, and it easily spreads from one area to another or from one person to another. People who compete in contact sports are at higher risk of contracting ringworm. Early cases will usually respond to topical treatment, but in more advanced cases, oral antifungal medications are required to eradicate it.