Health Blog | Hospital News, Resource and Podcast | MedStar Health

MedStar Health Blog

Featured Blog

  • 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:
    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

All Blogs

  • June 24, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    MedStar Washington Hospital Associate, Karl Malone, looks back on his decades of service
  • June 23, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Dr. Jorge Garcia reflects on his time and relationship with MedStar Washington Hospital Center
  • June 22, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    As the weather gets warmer, getting back in shape can be easier with lots of fun outdoor activities from which to choose—whether walking, biking, swimming, or golf. Many common summer ‘chores’ also can be great for your health— from mowing the lawn to raking, cleaning house, washing your car, and even gardening.

    “Many of us know that gardening can help you relax and lower your stress hormones by
getting you out in the fresh air and away from technology,” says Karen Kansler, MA, RN, nurse wellness coordinator in the Good Health Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital. “You’re ‘off the grid’ and able to smell and feel the earth.”

    She adds, “Gardening also is considered a moderate cardiovascular exercise, burning between 150 and 300 calories per hour. This is especially true if you’re weeding, digging or planting—activities that take more energy than watering flowers. To get the best workout, you should switch sides when using your hands so you aren’t just getting exercise on one side of your body.

    “It’s a great way to get moving, plus it helps with your flexibility, your balance and your sensory perception,” Kansler explains. “As you bend your knees, you’re exercising your quads and glutes (your thigh and buttock muscles).”

    Kansler notes that—as with most activities—it’s good to take the proper precautions. “Don’t overdo it and make sure you stretch before, during and after your activity, especially early in the season. Also, be sure to wear sunscreen and protect your knees. If you have arthritis, gardening can be good for your hands, but there are also many adaptive tools, such as stools on wheels, etc., for those with limited flexibility. Just remember to balance rest with periods of activity. Please don’t garden for a two- to three-hour stretch without a break.”

    An added health benefit of gardening is enjoying
the fruits and vegetables you planted. For people in urban areas or those who can’t kneel down to garden, containers can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors and ‘reap’ the other rewards you’ve ‘sown’.

    How Many Calories Are You Burning?

    Here's an approximate count of the calories you can burn:
    Activity Time Calories
    Gardening  1 hr. 150 to 300
    Washing/drying the car 1 hr. 330
    Dancing 30 min. 230
    Leisurely biking 1 hr. 280
    Cleaning house 1 hr. 330
    Sleeping 8 hrs. 300

     This article appeared in the summer 2016 issue of Good Health. Read more articles from this issue.

    Location Information

    The Good Health Center
    MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
    2nd Floor, O'Neill Building
    5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
    Baltimore, MD 21239

    Receive Free Gardening Gloves

    Click below to register for a free pair of gardening gloves. View our list of local community gardens in Baltimore.

  • June 22, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    As seen in this Good Health article, gardening is a great activity to help you burn calories, and there are plenty of local community gardens from which to choose. To find out which gardens are near you, view the list below.

    Baltimore Free Farm
    3510 Ash St., Baltimore, MD 21211

    Baltimore Orchard Project
    2701 St. Lo Drive, Baltimore, MD 21213

    Double Rock Park – Parkville
    8211 Glen Rd., Parkville, MD 21234

    Filbert Street Garden
    1317 Filbert St., Curtis Bay, MD 21226

    Friends of Patterson Park – Community Gardening
    27 South Patterson Park Ave., Baltimore, MD 21231
    Contact Harold McCray, City Farms Coordinator, at (410) 396-4850 for more information.

    Homestead Harvest Community Garden
    623 Homestead St., Baltimore, MD 21218

    Mount Washington Community Garden and Arboretum
    1920 Kelly Ave., Baltimore, MD 21209

    Perry Hall Community Garden
    9618 Belair Road, Nottingham, MD 21236

    Rose Street Community Garden
    600 block of N. Rose Street, Baltimore, MD 21205

    Spring Grove Community Garden
    1 Pine Drive, Catonsville, MD 21228

    The Remington Village Green
    2812-2822 Fox Street, Baltimore, MD 21211

    Upper Fell’s Point Community Garden
    1827 E. Pratt St., Baltimore, MD 21231

    Whitelock Community Farm
    922 Whitelock St., Suite 4, Baltimore, MD 21217

    Learn More

    To find out the calorie-burning benefits of gardening, read this article from Good Health.

    Receive Free Gardening Gloves

    Click below to register for a free pair of gardening gloves.

  • June 22, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Leslie O’Donnell has been on both sides of the wonderful care at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital’s kidney dialysis center. After her mother received dialysis in its outpatient dialysis center for 20 years, O’Donnell ended up working there and then becoming a patient herself. “I was so pleased with the care that they gave my mother for years that I decided to give up being a hairdresser to become a renal technologist,” she recalls. “I ended up working at the center for 13 years.”

    O’Donnell, 45, suffers from the same hereditary condition that her mother had—polycystic kidney disease (PKD). The condition causes fluid-filled cysts to grow in the kidneys that eventually lead to kidney failure. Diagnosed at the age of 13, her first kidney was removed in 2013 and the second one in 2015. Kidneys are critical organs, removing waste, electrolytes, and fluid from the blood. People can function with only one kidney, but need dialysis or a kidney transplant when both kidneys fail.

    “I just started kidney dialysis in May of last year at MedStar Good Samaritan,” she recollects. “After receiving excellent care there for a few months, I got access to peritoneal dialysis, which I can do every day in the comfort of home. I can take my supplies with me—there’s no machine, just a pole, a bag, solution, and a sterile environment. It gives me more freedom.”

    She credits Luis Gimenez, MD, her nephrologist (kidney specialist) at MedStar Good Samaritan, with saving her life. “With PKD, I was at high risk for a brain aneurysm and had five of them. I had a severe headache, and Dr. Gimenez found that one of my aneurysms was ready to burst. I underwent a craniotomy, then had a second brain surgery in 2013.” Dr. Gimenez, who is also chief, Renal Medicine, notes, “Our kidney services have repeatedly won awards. We have a long history of superb patient care, providing more than 46,000 high-quality dialysis treatments each year.”

    Everything You Need

    Luis Gimenez, MD
    Luis Gimenez, MD

    “Good Sam has an exceptional dialysis unit,” exclaims O’Donnell. “The facility is one of the largest in Maryland and the doctors are right there on site. You have everything you need. And my peritoneal dialysis nurse from Good Sam is very attentive. She came to my home when I started and taught me how to do home dialysis.” Kidney transplantation is the treatment of choice because it offers people a longer and better quality of life than dialysis. However, especially for certain rare blood types, the shortage of available kidneys means that many people must wait years for a transplant. For her transplant, O’Donnell selected the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute.

    Matthew Cooper, MD, its director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation, explains, “We evaluate patients right at MedStar Good Samaritan’s Good Health Center twice a month, where our team carefully assesses
    patients to clear them for a transplant.” He adds, “In addition to our groundbreaking treatments and technology, our program provides individualized attention to each patient. Our providers treat patients like part of the family.”

    Matthew Cooper, MD
    Matthew Cooper, MD

    O’Donnell explains, “I got to meet the whole transplant team right here—the social worker, dietitian, transplant nurse, and doctor. One month later the social worker called me and told me I was on the waiting list. With my blood type, I likely will wait three to five years until they find a match.” Dr. Cooper and his team encourage people to become more informed about living donation of kidneys. “Even people with diabetes or kidney disease can donate a kidney if they take care of themselves.” While waiting to find a matching kidney donor, O’Donnell will benefit from the ongoing care at MedStar Good Samaritan. “They have everything I need,” she says with a smile.

    This article appeared in the summer 2016 issue of Good Health. Read more articles from this issue.

    Location Information

    Renal/Nephrology Department
    MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
    5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
    3rd Floor, Main Hospital Building (3 North)
    Baltimore, MD 21239

    Learn More

    Click here to learn more about our renal dialysis program, kidney treatments and transplant options.

    Kidney Specialists

  • June 22, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Center’s New Space Optimizes Care for Older Adults and their Caregivers

    Taking care of an aging parent or other loved one gets more challenging over the years, as 66-year-old Denise Noll is finding out. As an only child, the responsibilities of caring for her 91-year-old mother, Esther Headley, have fallen solely on her shoulders. Fortunately, in addition to having a wonderfully supportive group of friends and a caregiver who comes to the home while she’s at work, Noll also can lean on the compassion and expertise of staff at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital’s Center for Successful Aging. Led by George Hennawi, MD, chief, Geriatrics, Pam Mahoney, RN, nurse practitioner, and other members of the team offer the kind of medical and emotional support that can be hard to find.

    “I started seeing Dr. Hennawi last May after I felt that my mother’s internist wasn’t providing as much time or attention as she needed as she aged. To me, Dr. Hennawi walks on water. He’s such a wonderful person and physician. He and Pam provided a thorough assessment and then worked closely with Mom’s caregiver and me," recalls Noll. But then Headley had a bad fall last Thanksgiving. After a stay in an acute care hospital, she recuperated in MedStar Good Samaritan’s subacute unit for three weeks. Throughout that time, the Center’s team provided their care and support. “They emphasize that they’re here for us,” exclaims Noll. “They invite us to call them rather than taking her to an urgent care center. Physicians often talk just to the son or daughter, and ignore the patient, or they talk just to the patient. At the Center, however, it’s always a discussion involving both of us. They look at the person as a whole and ask what could be done differently.”

    A Space Tailored for Older Adults

    To accommodate the growing demand for its services, the Center for Successful Aging moved to a larger, new space in the Russell Morgan Building in early March 2016. Dr. Hennawi notes, “Wider doors accommodate wheelchairs, floors are not shiny or slippery, and handrails are everywhere. The new space was made possible thanks to the significant generosity of the Arthur E. Landers and Hilda C. Landers Charitable Trust. Their support was instrumental in bringing Dr. Hennawi’s vision to life. “We are so grateful to the Landers Trust for their philanthropic support, which has afforded us the opportunity to carefully design every aspect of the Center to meet the needs of older patients,” says Dr. Hennawi.

    George Hennawi, MD
    George Hennawi, MD

    A bright, welcoming entrance also offers cool colors with a modern design, and chairs with arms to help patients sit and stand safely. Dr. Hennawi remarks, “In the large exam rooms, which comfortably accommodate family members, the exam tables can be lowered and raised so that patients with physical limitations don’t have to worry about falling. We always make sure that the patient and provider are face to face.” In the comfortable consult room—designed to feel like a living room—patients and families can meet with social workers and staff in a relaxing setting to discuss psychosocial issues. They can also develop Life Plans, which are treatment plans that evolve with the patient’s changing needs. This care continues wherever the patient may be, including home, hospital and long-term care facilities.

    Dr. Hennawi explains, “So that the team can work together efficiently, we created pods where the doctor, nurse practitioner, medical assistant, and social worker can communicate.” An on-site lab provides convenience for patients who need blood work and urinalysis—all in the same location. “The lovely new space also features a caregiver and community resource room, generously supported by the France-Merrick Foundation, that helps people use technology to support safety and independence, and offers a space where the public can learn about aging.” Noll adds, “The Center’s holistic team approach has been a godsend.”

    This article appeared in the summer 2016 issue of Good Health. Read more articles from this issue.

    Location Information

    The Center for Successful Aging
    MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
    Russell Morgan Building, Suite 502
    5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
    Baltimore, MD 21239

    Geriatric Specialists

    Take a Virtual Tour

    Click below to get an inside look at our new ADA compliant, handicapped accessible geriatric center.