One third cases seen by any family doctor fall under the umbrella of ‘seasonal ailments’. Monsoons bring malaria, dengue, viral fevers; summer brings heat boils, diarrhoea and heat stroke and the healthy appearing winter in addition to giving rosy cheeks has a high incidence of dry skin, with increasing in colds, sinus infections etc.
We will agree that atmospheric air is dry in winters and this dry air takes away the layer of oil normally present in the skin that helps trap moisture in the skin, preventing dryness.
Thus colder temperatures, low humidity and use of room heaters turn the skin dry, flaring itchy feeling all over – more on exposed parts of the skin e.g. face, hands, and feet. For those who already suffer from clinical conditions like eczema/ psoriasis etc, there is worsening of symptoms.
This makes it necessary for everyone to protect their skin from (excessive) drying in winter months.
- Use a moisturizer: moisturizer for winter should be oil based and not water based as the oil creates a protective layer on the skin that in itself helps retain more moisture than just a cream or lotion. Glycerine (a humectant) can also be used.
- Sun-screens: Most people think that sunscreens are only for summers, which is not true. Sun in winters – though pleasant –can still dry the skin. Hence, liberal use of sun screen on face, hands, etc is recommended.
- Spend less time bathing: people spend long time bathing in warm water as it is pleasurable. Little do they realize that sending long time in warm/ hot water further dries the skin
- Use a moisturizer/ cream based soap
- Apply a moisturizer when skin is slightly damp. The age old tradition of applying a light film of mustard oil in northern India was responsible for virtually no problems of skin dryness from time immemorial
- Clothing: Choose soft fabrics, like cotton that ‘breathes’; loose-fitting clothing also helps to keep the skin from chafing.
- Change socks daily
- Wash clothes regularly, especially jeans
- Drink enough water (at least 2 liter plus for an adult)
Home-made moisturizer: equal volume of rose water and glycerine + half the amount of lemon juice helps avoid skin dryness.
Dr Suman Rao, an MBBS, 20 years of practice in family medicine, has won awards for presenting papers on cases and over 5 years of training claims accessors on cases.