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  • January 14, 2022

    By Allison Larson, MD

    Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast or spend the season curled up by the fireplace, the low humidity, bitter winds, and dry indoor heat that accompany cold weather can deplete your skin’s natural moisture. Dry skin is not only painful, uncomfortable, and irritating; it also can lead to skin conditions such as eczema, which results in itchy, red, bumpy skin patches. 


    Follow these six tips to prevent and treat skin damage caused by winter dryness.


    1. Do: Wear sunscreen all year long.

    UV rays can easily penetrate cloudy skies to dry out exposed skin. And when the sun is shining, snow and ice reflect its rays, increasing UV exposure. 


    Getting a sunburn can cause severe dryness, premature aging of the skin, and skin cancer. Snow or shine, apply sunscreen before participating in any outdoor activity during the winter—especially if you take a tropical vacation to escape the cold; your skin is less accustomed to sunlight and more likely to burn quickly.


    The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.


    That being said, if you are considering laser skin treatments to reduce wrinkles, hair, blemishes, or acne scars, winter is a better time to receive these procedures. Sun exposure shortly after a treatment increases the risk of hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), and people are less likely to spend time outside during the winter.


    Related reading: 7 Simple Ways to Protect Your Skin in the Sun

    2. Do: Skip products with drying ingredients.

    Soaps or facial products you use in warm weather with no issues may irritate your skin during colder seasons. This is because they contain ingredients that can cause dryness, but the effects aren’t noticeable until they’re worsened by the dry winter climate.

    You may need to take a break from:

    • Anti-acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
    • Antibacterial and detergent-based soap
    • Anything containing fragrance, from soap to hand sanitizer

    Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer, which contains a high level of skin-drying alcohol, cannot be avoided; we need to maintain good hand hygiene to stop the spread of germs. If your job or lifestyle requires frequent hand washing or sanitizing, routinely apply hand cream throughout the day as well.


    During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen a lot of people develop hand dermatitis—a condition with itchy, burning skin that can swell and blister—due to constant hand washing. Sometimes the fix is as simple as changing the soap they're using. Sensitive-skin soap is the best product for dry skin; it typically foams up less but still cleans the skin efficiently.


    3. Do: Pay closer attention to thick skin.

    Areas of thin skin, such as the face and backs of your hands, are usually exposed to the wind and sun the most. It’s easy to tell when they start drying out. But the thick skin on your palms and bottoms of your feet is also prone to dryness—and tends to receive less attention.


    When thick skin gets dry, fissures form. You’ll see the surface turn white and scaly; then deep, linear cracks will appear. It isn’t as pliable as thin skin. When you’re constantly on your feet or using your hands to work, cook, and everything in between, dry thick skin cracks instead of flexing with your movements. 


    To soften cracked skin, gently massage a heavy-duty moisturizer—such as Vaseline—into the affected area once or twice a day. You can also talk with your doctor about using a skin-safe adhesive to close the fissures and help them heal faster.


    Related reading:  Follow these 5 Tips for Healthy Skin

    4. Don’t believe the myth that drinking more water will fix dry skin.

    Contrary to popular belief, the amount of water or fluids you drink does not play a major role in skin hydration—unless you’re severely dehydrated. In the winter, especially, dry skin is caused by external elements; it should be treated from the outside as well. 


    The best way to keep skin hydrated and healthy is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment—not lotion—to damp skin after a shower or bath.
    Some people need additional moisturizers for their hands, legs, or other areas prone to dryness.

    While some lotions are made better than others, most are a combination of water and powder that evaporates quickly. Creams and ointments work better because they contain ingredients that can help rebuild your skin barrier. 

    Look for products with ceramide, a fatty acid that helps rebuild the fat and protein barrier that holds your skin cells together. The AAD also recommends moisturizing ingredients such as:

    • Dimethicone
    • Glycerin
    • Jojoba oil
    • Lanolin
    • Mineral oil
    • Petrolatum
    • Shea butter

    For severely dry skin, you can try a “wet wrap” technique:

    1. Rinse a pair of tight-fitting pajamas in warm water and wring them out so they’re damp, not wet.
    2. Apply cream or ointment to your skin.
    3. Put on the damp pajamas, followed by a pair of dry pajamas, and wear the ensemble for several hours.

    Dampness makes your skin more permeable and better able to absorb hydrating products. If the wet wrap or over-the-counter products aren’t working for you, talk with a dermatologist about prescription skin hydration options. 

    Drinking more water isn’t the answer to dry winter skin. The best solution is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment directly to damp skin. Get more cold weather #SkinCareTips from a dermatologist in this blog: https://bit.ly/3KbVUA1.
    Click to Tweet

     

    5. Don’t confuse skin conditions with dryness.

    Skin conditions are often mistaken for dry skin because peeling or flaking are common symptoms. Redness of the skin or itching in addition to dryness and flaking indicates a skin condition that may need more than an over-the-counter moisturizer.


    Skin cells are anchored together by a lipid and protein layer (like a brick and mortar wall). With very dry skin, the seal on this wall or barrier is not fully intact and water evaporates out of the skin’s surface. The skin will become itchy and red in addition to scaly or flaky. If you experience these symptoms, visit with a dermatologist.

    6. Don’t wait for symptoms to take care of dry skin.

    Be proactive—the best way to maintain moisture is to apply hydrating creams and ointments directly to your skin on a regular basis. Start by applying them as part of your morning routine. Once you get used to that, add a nighttime application. And carry a container of it when you’re on the go or keep it in an easily accessible location at work.

     

    You can’t avoid dry air, but you can take precautions to reduce its harsh effects on your skin. If over-the-counter products don’t seem to help, our dermatologists can provide an individualized treatment plan. Hydrated skin is healthy skin!


    Does your skin get drier as the air gets colder?

    Our dermatologists can help.

    Call 202-877-DOCS (3627) or Request an Appointment

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  • June 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    When a child is diagnosed with cancer, a family's entire world is disrupted. Over the past 20 years, Tracy's Kids has committed over $2.1 million to an art therapy program designed to keep things as normal as possible for those being treated at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

    Tracy’s Kids offers patients and their families a therapeutic outlet to identify and process the difficult experiences and feelings that accompany cancer. At MedStar Georgetown, art therapists Tracy Councill, MA, ATR-BC, and Kristin Ramsey, MA, ATR, serve as integrated members of the pediatric oncology team, working in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Tracy’s Kids provides free services to approximately 2,000 pediatric cancer patients and their siblings at MedStar Georgetown each year.

    The non-profit was established in 1998, when Tracy’s Kids founder and President Matt Gerson heard about an art therapy program that Councill had started at MedStar Georgetown's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center seven years earlier. Gerson and Councill grew the Lombardi program into Tracy’s Kids, now a national organization offering art therapy free of charge to patients at seven locations in five states.

    “MedStar Georgetown’s core value of cura personalis, or care for the whole person, allowed the program to flourish into what it is today,” Councill says.

    Gerson also brings a personal perspective to his role, as he was diagnosed with cancer at age 10. “When I was going through cancer treatment, my medical team’s focus was on getting my body well. There was much less focus on taking care of me or my sister emotionally,” he remembers. “The mission of Tracy’s Kids is to ensure that the children we serve are emotionally equipped to fight cancer as actively as possible−and prepared for the time when they are cancer-free.”

    Gerson has deep ties to the Georgetown community. He and his wife are both graduates of Georgetown Law and their daughter is currently in her first year. “The work that Tracy’s Kids is doing at MedStar Georgetown is important to me both because of my memories of being a patient and because of my Hoya pride,” he says.

    A Hollywood-themed fundraiser, held each February, is one source of the program’s operating funds. The event is well attended by Washington, D.C.,’s political community, with members of Congress turning out among the crowd of Tracy’s Kids supporters each year. Grants and individual philanthropic investments are also important to sustaining Tracy’s Kids’ work.

    “Tracy’s Kids has been a steadfast partner to MedStar Georgetown for two decades. Their extraordinary contributions surpassed $2 million last year,” says Pam Maroulis, MedStar Georgetown’s vice president of Philanthropy. “The program directs over 80 percent of their budget into art supplies and therapists’ salaries—so every philanthropic dollar invested in this program represents a significant impact on the lives of young cancer patients and their families.”

    “The children we work with are often missing out on fun childhood activities like sports and sleepovers,” says Ramsey. “When they are at the art table, they can be kids again. With the help of Matt and other philanthropic investors, Tracy’s Kids will be here to help kids get well, both physically and emotionally, for decades more to come.”

    Learn More

    To learn more, visit MedStarGeorgetown.org/Contribute or call the MedStar Georgetown Office of Philanthropy at 202-444-0721.

  • June 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Have you been sneezing lately?
    If you suffer from allergies, you’re in good company. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 50 million Americans experience some type of allergy. Residents of the Washington, D.C., metro area are also up against high pollen counts—the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has ranked the area one the top 100 “Most Challenging Places to Live with Spring Allergies.˝ Below are some treatments to help reduce allergy symptoms.

    What is an allergy?
    An allergy is an overreaction of the body’s immune system to particular triggers, or allergens. Common allergens include pollen, dust and mold, medications, foods, insect venom, pet dander, and chemicals. The symptoms can be minor or severe.

    Preventing allergic reactions
    For some patients, the cause of allergy symptoms is clear. If you find that your eyes water every time you are near cats, that dusting the house makes you sneeze, or that your throat itches when you spend time in the garden, you may be able to limit exposure to specific allergens. However, if you experience allergy symptoms with no clear cause, you should talk to your doctor about testing that will help you identify your allergy triggers.

    Seasonal allergies can cause annoying symptoms like sneezing and watery eyes. Over-the-counter treatments can often make a big difference.

    Treatment for seasonal allergies
    Seasonal allergies, sometimes called “hay fever,” can be triggered by trees, grasses, flowers, and weeds. Common symptoms include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, scratchy throat, and itchy or watery eyes.

    Seasonal allergies can often be treated with over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamine pills, eye drops, or nasal sprays. If over-the-counter treatments fail to alleviate symptoms, prescription medication or immunotherapy (such as allergy shots that gradually increase the body’s tolerance to allergens) may be helpful.

    Allergies can change over the course of your life and may become more severe unexpectedly. You should let your doctor know that you are experiencing allergy symptoms, even if they are currently mild and manageable.

    When to seek emergency care
    While it is uncommon for seasonal allergies to trigger severe symptoms, other types of allergies often can. In fact, you can experience a major allergic reaction even if you have no history of allergies. Signs of a serious reaction include rashes, hives, low blood pressure, breathing trouble, asthma attacks, or anaphylaxis.

    Anaphylaxis is the most dangerous type of allergic reaction. During anaphylaxis, your immune system releases a flood of chemicals that can cause the body to go into shock. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing, dizziness, a tingling feeling in the hands or feet, nausea or vomiting, chest tightness, or a rapid or weak pulse. If you have already been diagnosed with an allergy, your doctor may prescribe an
    emergency treatment device called an epinephrine shot to self-administer if you begin to experience anaphylaxis. You may have seen these devices carried by people with known, severe allergies to bee stings or peanuts.

    A serious allergic reaction can cause seizures, make it difficult to breathe, or can even be fatal—so it is important to take the signs seriously. If you or a family member experience the symptoms of a major allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately. The expert care team at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital Emergency Department is here to help.

    Request an Appointment

    To make an appointment with one of our physicians, call 202-342-2400. Visit MedStarGeorgetown.org/ED for more information about the Emergency Department. 

  • June 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 48 million people—roughly 1 in 6 Americans—get sick each year from food borne illness, such as food poisoning, caused by unseen, harmful bacteria. Of those, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from food borne disease.

    In cross-contamination, harmful bacteria are inadvertently transferred from foods, surfaces, utensils or hands to other foods. Hand-washing is a crucial step many of us forget when we’re cooking at home. We can prevent most cases of contamination and foodborne illness at home if we practice four effective steps for proper cleanliness and food preparation.

    The 4 Cs: 4 Tips to Avoid Cross-Contamination

    1. Clean

    Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time to prevent the spread of bacteria—before, during and after cooking. Make sure to also wash everything your food touches when cooking:

    • Appliances
    • Countertops and surfaces
    • Cutting boards
    • Utensils
    Wash your hands before, during and after cooking to avoid #foodpoisoning, and wash anything your food touches during preparation and cooking. via @MedStarHealth
    Click to Tweet

    Fruits and vegetables also need to be cleaned well. Imagine all the people in the grocery store who may have sorted through a pile of apples, looking for just the right one! In the process, they’re also spreading germs. Fruits and vegetables also may contain small amounts of chemicals or pesticide residues used in the farming process as well as dirt from the ground. Give fruits a good rinse in cold water before that first bite to eliminate germs they may have picked up before making their way to you. You don’t need a special fruit wash—water is good enough.

    When preparing meals or snacks with raw vegetables, make sure you rinse them so they don’t spread bacteria to your hands, knives or any other food items. Keep surfaces clean as you go along.

    Sometimes not washing is just as important as washing—specifically when it comes to poultry. I don’t recommend rinsing chicken or turkey at all. Instead of eliminating bacteria, washing or rinsing causes it to spread. Instead, take the meat out of its packaging, trim it if needed, and proceed with cooking. Any bacteria on the skin of the bird will be destroyed as long as the meat is cooked thoroughly.

    2. Compartmentalize

    Keep foods separate in your shopping cart and in your grocery bags. When you store things in the refrigerator, seal well any raw foods that need to be cooked and place it in the lower part of the fridge so it won’t ruin other foods if it drips or leaks. Keep eggs in their original carton for that same reason. Separating foods is especially vital for people with allergies. A very small amount of an allergen, such as nuts, could cause an allergic reaction.

    If you’re the kind of cook who washes utensils while preparing food, keep the items you’ve hand-washed well away from your sink. That way, if you’re adding dirty dishes to the sink or rinsing utensils, they won’t splash up on the items that you’ve already cleaned.

    As often as possible, use separate cutting boards, utensils and knives for raw poultry or eggs, raw meat or seafood and produce. Multicolored cutting boards and utensil handles can help keep equipment separate. You can also cut up your vegetables first, then your meats to avoid cross-contamination and save cleaning time.

    3. Chill

    As soon as you get home from the store, put away items that require freezing or refrigeration. Check every now and then to make sure your refrigerator and freezer are set at the right temperatures:

    • Set the refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees or colder.
    • Keep the freezer at 0 degrees to avoid bacteria growth.
    • Make sure items in the fridge or freezer aren’t crowded so the cold air can circulate.
    • Use inexpensive appliance thermometers to monitor the refrigerator and the freezer.

    4. Cook

    While cooking, make sure food reaches the correct internal temperature, such as 165 degrees for chicken or turkey and 145 degrees for steak. These temperatures will destroy any potentially harmful bacteria. Never assume meat is done cooking because it "looks OK." I highly recommend using a food thermometer to ensure the proper temperature has been reached, as color and texture are not reliable indicators of doneness. 

    Microwaves are handy for cooking and heating foods, and we should follow safe food practices when using them, too. Microwave directions often state that the food should sit for a few minutes after the cooking time. This is because the temperature will continue to rise, allowing for a more even heat distribution. After waiting a few minutes, check the temperature with a food thermometer to make sure it’s 165 degrees or above for chicken and beef.

    Food poisoning can be very dangerous, especially for vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, young children and the elderly. By following these basic steps for food safety, we can avoid food poisoning and help keep our families safe.

    In need of urgent care for a food borne illness? Click the button below to check-in online to a MedStar Health Urgent Care near you.

    Learn More

  • June 01, 2018

    By Robert Henshaw, MD

    Sarcomas, which are cancers that start in bones, fat or muscle, are rare and can be challenging to treat. Historically, amputation was the only option for treating patients who had a sarcoma in an arm or leg. In the early 1990s, doctors began to prove that surgical removal of tumors without amputation was just as effective in controlling sarcomas or promoting overall survival as radical amputation.

    Today’s doctors continue to see similar results and this has resulted in huge leaps in limb-sparing sarcoma treatments. If we can treat a patient’s sarcoma just as effectively without amputation, it certainly makes sense to save the limb and maintain function.

    Since we can surgically treat a patient’s #sarcoma just as effectively without #amputation, we can focus on preserving limbs and function. bit.ly/2JlbJbk via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    We’ve gotten to this point in sarcoma care through a better understanding of how these cancers behave. We have superior imaging technologies than we had in the 1990s, meaning we can better see where a tumor sits on a bone relative to nearby muscles and other tissues, as well as additional technologies that show us how tumors develop on a molecular level. These advancements let us plan for treatments more precisely and get a better grasp on which body structures will be affected.

    Advanced limb-sparing sarcoma treatments

    Sarcoma treatments have improved in a relatively short time. By being able to look at the molecular characteristics of a sarcoma, we can choose medications that are more effective against a patient’s particular type of cancer. Rather than removing the entire limb, orthopedic surgical oncologists remove significant portions of bone and soft tissues and reconstruct them with internal implants, often called endoprostheses.

    Treating sarcomas also may involve chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Both of these treatments kill cancer cells, and they can be used in several ways:

    • On their own if surgery is unsafe for a patient
    • To shrink a tumor before it is removed surgically
    • To keep sarcomas from coming back after treatment
    • Some combination of these

    We constantly study emerging chemotherapy treatments and new ways to deliver them with fewer side effects. Many techniques today also minimize patients’ radiation exposure.

    Of course, new technologies and better treatments can only do so much. As with all cancers, early detection is key. Pain in a bone or joint is the most common symptom that gets patients in to see the doctor, but if a sarcoma starts in a muscle or another soft tissue, it often is painless. That’s why it’s important to see the doctor if you have a bump, lump or swollen area that doesn’t go away on its own within four to six weeks. Too often, patients who tell us they were busy with work or school and were hopeful that a painless bump would go away on its own. Instead, it grew much larger and resulted in a cancer that was more difficult to treat.

    Other potential signs of a sarcoma include:

    • An unexplained broken bone
    • An enlarged arm or leg muscle when compared to the other side
    • A sudden swelling without any injury
    • A worsening bony pain that wakes you up at night 

    Why we lead the way in sarcoma treatment

    In one major study of limb salvage for sarcoma, 22.1 percent of the study’s patients needed to have an amputation at some point. Our rates are significantly better: 95 to 98 percent of our patients with sarcomas won’t need an amputation.

    What makes our limb-saving outcomes better? One advantage is that we’re one of the few centers nationwide dealing with these rare sarcomas every day. Our orthopedic surgical oncologists perform more than 350 major surgeries per year, and the vast majority of these are to treat sarcomas. Most doctors may see one patient with a sarcoma in a 30-year practice. We keep a database of all our surgical cases, so we can evaluate our techniques and continuously find ways to improve the care we provide.

    Patients are referred to us from all over the country and the world, and my colleagues and I are internationally recognized for our limb-salvage efforts. In fact, we have a training program in which we teach young surgeons to do the work we do and use that knowledge to care for patients in their home states or countries.

    Our work to help patients with sarcomas doesn’t stop after surgery or radiation therapy. Our patients work closely with physical and occupational therapists to get up and moving after treatment, with customized exercises designed to improve strength and range of motion. Our surgical procedures aid this process as well, because we preserve as much muscle and other healthy tissue as possible.

    New techniques, improved technology and a better understanding of sarcomas have all come together in the last two decades, and we continue to expand our knowledge about these rare cancers. As we continue to research and learn more, I’m confident that we’ll be able to provide even better care and outcomes for our patients.

    For more information about sarcomas, call 202-877-3627 or click below to make an appointment with an orthopedic oncologist.

    Request an Appointment

     
  • May 30, 2018

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    The Seventh International Conference on Clinical Trials is scheduled to be held during September 24-26, 2018 at Chicago, USA. This conference includes a wide range of keynote presentations, plenary talks, symposia, workshops, exhibitions, poster presentations and career development programs.

    Clinical Trials 2018 Conference is a multidisciplinary program with broad participation with members from around the globe focused on learning about clinical research and its advances. This is a great opportunity to reach the largest assemblage of participants from Clinical Trials community that is from academia, clinical research entities, medical groups, related associations, societies and also from government agencies, pharmaceutical, biomedical and medical device industries.

    September 24-26, 2018
    Chicago, Illinois

    Learn more here.

  • May 30, 2018

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    The month of May brought together MedStar Health Research Institute associates at three locations for our biannual town halls. Hosted at University Town Center, MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, and MedStar Washington Hospital Center, the town halls help to engage and connect associates. Thank you to all the Research Institute associates who were able to join us at one of the Spring Town Halls in the last month.

    Thank you to Alexander Kuhn, Saif Almushhadani, and Becky Montalvo for presenting our safety moment on the power of integration. With the connection between OnCore, our CTMS, and PowerChart, our electronic health record, their research team was able to be quickly notified that one of their patients had been admitted to the emergency department, allowing for quick reporting to the study sponsors with the relevant details.

    At the Spring 2016 Town Halls, Neil Weissman introduced associates to the idea of the academic health system. As MedStar Health and the Research Institute continue to grow, we continue to make steps towards that system and the town halls updated our progress on the clinical side and on the supporting infrastructure. As part of our growth, we have:

    • Expanded health and wellness to our patients through our clinical research in cardiology, diabetes, hepatitis C, and health services policy. This work is highlighted in our Advancing Health Report.
    • Committed to continuing our partnership with Georgetown University.
    • Implemented upgrades and new software to support our clinical infrastructure .

    One of the keys to our continued forward momentum is our commitment to our associates. With the results of last year’s Associate Engagement Survey and this year’s short Pulse Survey, we recognize that have areas of opportunity to engage associates.

    Part of support of associates is in professional development and educational assistance. The Research Institute has set aside funds for all benefits-eligible associates to use towards their own professional development. Everyone has different opinions on what professional development means, so these funds can be used for how each associate defines professional growth. This includes conference attendance, travel, seminars, and certifications.

    As part of the unified human resources structure at MedStar, benefits-eligible associates also have access to EdAssist, our educational assistance service provider. Our human resources team is currently working with EdAssist to expand the list of training that will be covered by tuition assistance.

    The Pulse Survey includes a comment field and senior leadership is looking at these comments and evaluating options to address the feedback. Thank you to all associates who completed the survey and shared their comments.

    Research would not be possible without our associates and without the patients who participate. Thank you to those who allow us to make the lives of our patients better today and in the future.