June 19, 2024

Most of the season’s common complaints can be cared for with over-the-counter supplies, but know when to head to a walk-in clinic.

Popsicles, picnics and sunshine are sure signs summer is here. Unfortunately, so are stings, scrapes and bug bites. The good news is that most summer ailments can be treated at home. And when in doubt, there’s always the walk-in clinic.

Here’s how to treat four common seasonal complaints — and when to head to a walk-in clinic.

Insect bites and stings

While often lumped together, insect stings and bites are two distinct ailments and should be treated accordingly. Stings typically cause immediate pain whereas bites are more likely to be itchy.

When treating stings, the first step is to check for a visible stinger in the wound. If it’s still there, remove it using a straight-edged object, such as the edge of a credit card.

“You don’t want to use tweezers to remove a stinger,” said Robert N. Anderson, a doctor of nursing practice with Vanderbilt Walk-in Clinics. “Squeezing the stinger could release more venom into the wound.”

Next, wash the area with soap and water and apply a cool compress to help with the pain.

For insect bites, clean the area with soap and water, apply a cool compress and use an over-the-counter topical cortisone cream to reduce itching. For adults and children over 6, an over-the-counter antihistamine can help manage itching, especially at night.

When to visit the walk-in clinic:

  • If redness and swelling persist or worsen, indicating a possible infection.

When to go to the emergency department:

  • If there’s significant swelling or signs of an allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing.


For sunburn, start by cooling the skin with a cool, damp cloth or bath. Keeping the skin moisturized with aloe vera gel or a gentle, fragrance-free lotion is essential. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water can also aid recovery. For pain relief, try an over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

When to visit the walk-in clinic:

  • If the sunburn covers a large area of the body.
  • If blisters develop.
  • If you experience severe pain, fever, chills or headache.


For scrapes, it’s crucial to clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water, gently removing any visible debris. Next, apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly.

“You really want a very thin covering of petroleum jelly — just enough to make it look shiny,” said Anderson. “It will keep the wound moist, which will reduce scarring.”

Finally, cover the wound with a non-adherent bandage to keep it clean and protected.

When to visit the walk-in clinic:

  • If the wound shows signs of infection, such as increased redness, warmth, swelling or oozing.
  • If the scrape is large or deep, requiring professional cleaning or stitches.

Poison ivy and other rashes

Oils in certain plants, such as poison ivy and sumac, are what cause the common itchy summer rash. The best treatment is to wash the affected area with soap and water as soon as possible after coming into contact with the plant.

“You don’t need any fancy soap,” Anderson said. “Dishwashing soap may actually be the most effective at getting rids of those plant oils.”

And be sure to wash any articles of clothing or other fabrics that came into contact with the plant oils, too, to avoid spreading the irritant around.

For the itching, an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion can help. If that doesn’t provide sufficient relief, adults and children over 6 can try an oral antihistamine.

When to visit the walk-in clinic:

  • If the rash is widespread or severe.
  • If over-the-counter treatments fail to provide relief.

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