MedStar Health blog : 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: 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

All Blogs

  • March 23, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    CLABSI Free - A Quality & Safety Milestone 

    This week, Unit 2G, a medical intensive care unit at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, achieved a major milestone: reaching two years without a Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI).

    Central lines (catheters) are tubes that help patients get the medications or fluids they need and allow medical professional to draw blood for testing.  But they also present a particular risk for developing infections, because they are inserted into large veins in the neck, chest or groin.  While these lines are necessary, they must be monitored continuously and carefully.  Medical professionals have been working hard to reduce CLABSI rates in hospitals, and from 2008 to 2013, there was a 46% decrease in CLABSI in hospitals across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Yet, an estimated 30,100 CLABSI cases still occur in U.S. hospitals each year.

    How did the physicians and nurses on 2G keep CLABSI at bay for two years (and counting)?  They credit dedicated teamwork for their success. "The most important step is collaboration and communication between all team members,” notes Joshua Wansley, RN, a nurse leader on the unit. “Twice a week, nurse leaders and attending physicians check on every patient and assess if the central lines are still needed for that patient.”

    In fact, nurse leaders take the extra step of reviewing central line records every day to verify that the line is needed. “The goal, of course, is that you only have lines in that are absolutely necessary," says Wansley. "That one extra review could show a line ready to be removed.  If it comes out, the risk is gone.”

    Resource nurses -- the nurses who manage the workflow on a shift -- keep careful records of patients' central lines. Nurses are tested every year on their skills for changing the dressings around the central lines and other protective steps needed to keep patients safe.  “We also talk about it all the time, so we are all very aware of the current situation with central lines. Our goal is to go that extra mile  to protect the patients," Wansley concluded.

    And at the Hospital Center, every patient unit posts its current record in a highly visible place for all to see.  Much like a construction site that records the number of days since its last employee injury, our patient units post the number of days since the last CLABSI.  Keeping it top of mind among every team member -- and among patients and families -- will help 2G and every other unit at the Center prevent these life-threatening infections.   

    For Patients:  What You Can Do to Help Prevent CLABSI

    Patients can also play a role in preventing CLABSI. The CDC suggests:

    Speak up about any concerns so that those providing your care are reminded to follow the best prevention practices.Ask your healthcare provider if the central line is absolutely necessary. If so, ask them to help you understand the need for it and how long it will be in place.Pay attention to the bandage and the area around it. If the bandage comes off or if the bandage or area around it is wet or dirty, tell a healthcare providerright away.Don’t get the central line or the central line insertion site wet.Tell a healthcare provider if the area around the catheter is sore or red or if the patient has a fever or chills.Avoid touching the tubing and do not let any visitors touch the catheter or tubing as well.MOST IMPORTANTLY:  The single most important thing that everyone can do is wash their hands.  Everyone who comes into the room to visit or care for a patient with a central line must wash their hands—before and after they visit.  If you are a patient, speak up if you see someone who doesn't follow this very important rule.  If you are a family member or visitor, be mindful of the rule, follow it, and speak up if others don't. It's simple -- and effective.

  • March 17, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    At 89, Arnold Goldberger likes being in his own home, being able to reach his doctor when he needs him and having him take time to listen.
  • March 15, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    A MedStar Washington Hospital Center patient's battle with colon cancer results in her sharing the importance of colon cancer screening
  • March 11, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Patient Jill Pinch saw the notice online: MedStar Washington Hospital Center was asking former hospital patients to volunteer to help them improve safety, communications and the overall hospital experience.  Jill had something to say. 

    On November 29, 2013, the 35-year-old arrived at the Hospital Center after struggling for hours at a D.C. birthing center. Jill and her husband had planned natural childbirth, but in the end, Jill needed a C-section to bring her first-born, William, into the world.  And he needed a week-long stay in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to fight an infection.

    “I was defeated, desperately trying to reconcile myself to this new reality,” Jill says. “But I had no frame of reference to help me understand what to expect. I didn’t even know what questions to ask.”

    With that as background, Jill became one of the first members of the Hospital Center’s new NICU Patient and Family Advisory Council for Quality and Safety (PFACQS, pronounced P-fax) in 2015. Together, former hospital patients, family members and hospital staff discuss the patients' personal stories, their experiences and new ideas to help the staff see the hospital through the patients' eyes. The goal is to improve overall hospital patient safety, quality and, ultimately, the experience by keeping the Hospital Center’s mission—putting patients first— front and center.  

    Building on Success

    “The clinical care William and I received was exceptional,” Jill says. “But some communications could have been improved. Through the council, we’ve been looking at ways for the hospital to better share information about what’s happening, what to expect, what on-site resources are available to help patients and families adapt to their situation." 

    Since this PFACQS was launched, the Hospital Center has created groups for hospital patients in the heart program, intensive care units and cancer.

    Former hospital patient Alex Matthews joined the cancer PFACQS.

    “I spent three weeks in the Hospital Center after having major surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2013,” he says. “My care was phenomenal. The nurses, in particular, were so caring and attentive. When I saw the hospital was looking for volunteers to help make it even better, I felt like I owed it to them.” 

    Like Jill, Alex thought some of the non-medical aspects of his hospital stay could have been smoother.  He has ideas about wait times from admission to surgery and the timing of certain instructions delivered on the unit. Hospital staff on the cancer PFACQS listened. Now, they’re trying to streamline the admitting process and address other concerns voiced by Alex and fellow patient advocates.  

    “Based upon what I’ve seen, the Hospital Center is committed to listening to the patient’s voice, and using our points of view to deliver the safest, evidence-based and compassionate care to every one of its patients,” Jill says. “Together, we’re making changes for the benefit of all.”

    For more information on the Hospital Center’s PFACQS Program, click here.

     

  • March 04, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., and it’s also a cancer that’s highly preventable through screening.
  • March 02, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    A quick treatment for chronic foot or ankle pain may get you back on your feet in no time.