How to Deal with Common Skin Conditions in the Wilderness

How to Deal with Common Skin Conditions in the Wilderness

How To Deal With The Most Common Skin Conditions In The Wilderness


When venturing into the wilderness, it’s important to be prepared for all sorts of challenges and obstacles that may come your way. One aspect that is often overlooked is taking care of your skin. The harsh outdoor conditions can lead to various skin conditions, ranging from sunburns to insect bites. In this article, we will discuss the most common skin conditions you may encounter in the wilderness and provide you with tips and tricks on how to deal with them effectively.

1. Sunburn:

One of the most common skin conditions in the wilderness is sunburn. Spending extended periods outdoors without proper protection can leave your skin red, painful, and peeling. To prevent sunburn, always remember to:

Wear sunscreen:

Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and apply it generously to all exposed skin. Reapply every two hours, especially if you are sweating or swimming.

Wear protective clothing:

Cover up with long-sleeved shirts, hats, and sunglasses to shield your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Lightweight and breathable fabrics are ideal for outdoor activities.

Seek shade:

Avoid being in direct sunlight during peak hours, typically between 10 am and 4 pm. If possible, seek shade under trees or use portable shade structures.


If you do end up with sunburn, there are several ways to alleviate the pain and promote healing. Apply aloe vera gel or a moisturizing cream to soothe the skin. You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, to reduce inflammation.

2. Insect Bites and Stings:

Insects are abundant in the wilderness, and their bites and stings can cause itching, redness, swelling, and sometimes even severe reactions. To protect yourself from insect bites and stings, follow these tips:

Use insect repellent:

Apply an insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin to exposed skin and clothing. Pay special attention to areas prone to bites, such as ankles, wrists, and neck.

Cover up:

Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and closed-toe shoes to reduce the amount of exposed skin. Tucking pants into socks and using mosquito nets can provide additional protection.

Inspect your surroundings:

Before settling down in a camping spot, check for any insect nests or hives. Avoid areas with stagnant water, as they tend to attract mosquitoes.


If you do get bitten or stung, there are a few remedies you can try. Applying ice or a cold compress can help reduce swelling and itching. Over-the-counter antihistamine creams or oral antihistamines can also provide relief. Avoid scratching the affected area, as it may lead to further irritation or infection.

3. Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac:

Encountering poisonous plants such as poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac can result in an itchy rash. These plants contain a sap called urushiol, which reacts with the skin and causes the allergic reaction. To avoid the irritating rash caused by these plants, take the following precautions:

Identify the plants:

Learn to identify poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac to avoid coming into contact with them. Remember the phrase “leaves of three, let it be” as a helpful reminder.

Wear protective clothing:

When hiking or camping in areas known to have poisonous plants, wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves. This will provide a physical barrier between your skin and the plants.

Wash your skin:

If you suspect you have come into contact with any of these plants, wash your skin with soap and water as soon as possible. This will help to remove any lingering urushiol.


If you do end up with a poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash, there are a few things you can do to alleviate the discomfort. Apply over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to soothe the itchiness. Taking cool showers and patting your skin dry can also provide relief. In severe cases, where the rash covers a large area or causes extreme discomfort, it is advisable to seek medical attention.

4. Blisters:

When spending prolonged periods hiking or engaging in other outdoor activities, blisters can quickly become a nuisance. These painful fluid-filled pockets usually occur due to friction between your skin and your footwear. To prevent blisters, consider the following tips:

Choose appropriate footwear:

Invest in well-fitting shoes or boots that provide ample support and cushioning. Avoid shoes that are too tight or have stiff, ill-fitting areas that may rub against your skin.

Wear moisture-wicking socks:

Opt for socks made of synthetic materials that wick moisture away from your skin. This helps to reduce the chances of friction and blisters.

Keep your feet dry:

Change into dry socks and remove any excess moisture from your feet whenever possible. Use talcum powder or foot antiperspirants to reduce sweat and friction.


If you do develop a blister, it’s best not to pop it, as this can lead to infection. Instead, cover the blister with a bandage or moleskin to protect it from further irritation. If the blister does accidentally pop, clean the area with mild soap and water, apply an antibiotic ointment, and cover it with a sterile bandage.

My 2 Cents:

Taking care of your skin in the wilderness is essential for a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience. Prevention is always better than treatment, so make sure to take the necessary precautions to protect your skin from the sun, insects, and poisonous plants. Pack a well-stocked first aid kit that includes items such as sunscreen, insect repellent, and ointments for various skin conditions. Lastly, always remember to stay hydrated and listen to your body’s needs. By being mindful of your skin’s health, you can fully embrace the wonders of the wilderness without any unnecessary discomfort!

Remember, the key to survival is knowledge and preparedness.

Stay safe and happy exploring!


– “Skin Care in the Wilderness” – National Outdoor Leadership School
– “Wilderness First Aid” – American Red Cross
– “Preventing and Treating Sunburn” – American Academy of Dermatology
– “Insect Bites and Stings: First Aid” – Mayo Clinic