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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:
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    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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  • November 22, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Cold weather is upon us—and, unfortunately, so is flu season. The flu, which is most common in the fall and winter, is a contagious respiratory illness that’s caused by a virus called influenza. The most common symptoms of the flu include:

    • Body aches
    • Chills
    • Cough
    • Fatigue
    • Fever
    • Runny or stuffy nose
    • Sore throat
    • Vomiting (mostly in children)

    While anyone can develop the flu, the people most at risk include:

    • Children
    • People who have a compromised immune system, due to conditions such as HIV or AIDS
    • People with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease
    • Pregnant women
    • Seniors (65 years of age and older)

    The number one way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot. In fact, studies show that the flu shot reduces the risk of flu-associated hospital visits for adults by about 40 percent and reduces flu-related pediatric intensive care unit admissions by 74 percent. Moreover, the flu shot is associated with lower rates of some cardiac events, or incidents that may cause damage to the heart, among individuals with heart disease—especially those who have experienced a cardiac event in the past year.

    How the Flu Shot Works and When Should You Get It

    Flu shots are effective because they protect against infection by incorporating the virus into the vaccine, causing your body to develop antibodies. Most flu vaccines in the U.S. protect you against a variety of different flu viruses that are identified as the most common at the time.

    Different vaccines may be recommended depending on your age and situation, so make sure to speak to your doctor if you have any questions regarding which vaccine is best for you.

    Anyone six months or older should receive an annual flu shot. Try scheduling your flu shot by the end of October, if possible, as it takes about two weeks after the shot for antibodies to develop in your body and provide protection against the flu.

    Getting your #flushot by the end of October is a good idea, as it takes about two weeks after the shot for antibodies to develop in the body and protect you against the #flu. Learn more about staying healthy this #fluseason, via @MedStarHealth

    Click to Tweet

    Other Flu Prevention Tips

    Although the flu shot is by far the best way to avoid the flu, the following tips can also help decrease your chance for developing it:

    • Avoid regularly touching your mouth, nose, and eyes: This is how the flu most easily spreads, especially after you touch surfaces that contain traces of the flu virus.
    • Wash your hands: When you regularly wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes, you wash away traces of the flu virus after you’ve come in contact with it.
    • Drink water: Water can help strengthen your immune system, which helps you avoid developing the flu. I recommend drinking about eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.

    How to Treat the Flu

    If you develop the flu, we generally suggest you get plenty of rest and drink a lot of fluids to stay hydrated. If you are experiencing a fever, we would suggest that you take over-the-counter fever and pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

    If you are sick with the flu, antiviral drugs can help fight against the flu viruses in your body. These drugs work best when started within two days of getting sick with the flu. While you’re taking the medication, we typically recommend you stay away from work or school until you’ve fully recovered. This way, you don’t spread the flu to colleagues or friends.

    In most cases, symptoms of the flu hit you extremely fast. And there’s no common sequence in terms of when symptoms develop. As a result, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as you begin developing these symptoms. Visit a MedStar Health Urgent Care or your primary care provider.

    Although flu is an extremely common condition, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing it by getting a flu shot. Make sure to reach out to your doctor if you have any questions about the flu shot or the flu, in general.

    Are you prepared for flu season? Get a flu shot at a MedStar Health Urgent Care location near you.

    Find a Location

  • November 15, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Seizures, or changes in the brain’s electrical activity, are more common than most people realize—in fact, about one in 100 Americans have had an unprovoked seizure and one in 26 people will develop epilepsy (the most common underlying condition that causes a seizure) in their lifetime.

    Signs and symptoms of a seizure can vary depending on the severity of your seizure. But the most common include:

    • Cognitive or emotional symptoms, such as fear, anxiety, or deja vu
    • Loss of consciousness or awareness
    • Temporary confusion
    • Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs

    Seizures are hard to predict, so it’s important to know how to handle the situation—whether it’s you or a loved one having a seizure—and when to seek medical attention. Early treatment with medication can be considerably effective, and controlling seizures can help you avoid long term implications, such as brain damage and memory loss.

    Why Do Seizures Occur?

    A seizure is a result of a change of the electrical activity in the brain and can occur in children and adults. Depending on the type of seizure, it can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.

    The most common cause of seizures is epilepsy, a neurological disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain is suddenly disturbed. But not everyone who has a seizure has epilepsy, as seizures can sometimes happen due to:

    • Alcohol abuse or withdrawal
    • Head trauma that causes an area of bleeding in the brain
    • High fever
    • Lack of sleep
    • Low blood sodium
    • Medications, such as antidepressants or pain relievers
    #Seizures are most commonly the result of #epilepsy. But did you know seizures can also occur due to alcohol abuse, lack of sleep, and certain medication? Find out why they occur and what to do about them via @MedStarHealth. #LiveWellHealthy
    Click to Tweet

    A seizure can be related to a stroke, which is the most common cause of seizures in older adults. This is because a stroke injures your brain and results in the formation of scar tissue, which affects the electrical activity in your brain and can lead to a seizure.

    Related Reading: 5 Common Neurologic Conditions and How to Identify Them

    What If You or Someone You Know Has a Seizure?

    If you witness someone who is unconscious and having a seizure, it’s important to move them on their side to help keep their airway clear. Furthermore, you want to keep other people out of the way and make sure not to try to hold your loved one down or stop their movements. If they remain unconscious for more than five minutes, or you don’t feel comfortable with the situation, call 911 for an ambulance.

    If you or a loved one experience symptoms of epilepsy, it’s important to be evaluated by a doctor. Imaging tests, such as electroencephalography (EEG) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), can help determine the reason for your seizures. In most cases, seizures are very treatable through medication. Keep in mind that some symptoms of epilepsy, such as fear and anxiety, can be misdiagnosed. As a result, make sure to visit with a doctor who specializes in neurological conditions, or epilepsy if possible.

    Seizures can occur for a variety of reasons and are typically hard to predict. Make sure to see a doctor if you experience symptoms.

    Do you think you could have epilepsy? Find out why you should see a neurologist.

    Learn How We Can Help

  • November 02, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Recently published collaborative research evaluated whether tea or coffee consumption is associated with an increased risk of incident rheumatoid arthritis using the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. The research team included members from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, National Institute of Nursing Research, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, National Institute of Environmental Health Science, MedStar Health Research Institute and Georgetown/Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences.

    The Women’s Health Initiative was a long-term national health study which MedStar Health Research Institute joined as a collaborating center in 1994, under the direction of Barbara Howard, PhD. The observational study includes a cohort of 93,676 postmenopausal women, age 50 to 79, whom were enrolled from 1993 to 1998. In the study, 76,853 women completed a self-administered questionnaire at baseline providing information on their daily consumption of tea and coffee.

    During analysis, the study team found that previous studies have shown an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis associated with consumption of decaffeinated coffee, but no such association with caffeinated coffee intake. Many teas such as green tea, black tea, and oolong tea have been considered as antioxidants and perhaps reducing the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. However, several studies have suggested no relationship between tea consumption and rheumatoid arthritis. Other risk factors such as age, race/ethnicity, cigarette smoking, medical history, medication use, and other lifestyle behaviors may also be associated with an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

    There were 185 women who self-reported incident cases of rheumatoid arthritis. The results show that women with a history of nonherbal, nondecaffeinated tea consumption of any amount had an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis during the first 3 years of observation in the Women’s Health Initiative Observation Study. The study results do not show any association between coffee intake and rheumatoid arthritis but there is a minimal increased risk of incident rheumatoid arthritis with caffeinated tea consumption.

    The study authors are Diman Lamichlane, MD; Christopher Collins, MD; Florina Constantinescu, MD, PhD; Brian Walitt, MD; Mary Pettinger, MS; Christine Parks, PhD, MSPH; and Barbara Howard, PhD.

    Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 2019. DOI: 10.1097/RHU.0000000000000788

  • November 02, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    At the recent MedStar Health Research Institute (MHRI) Fall Town Halls, associates gathered at three of our locations to be informed and engaged with what’s taking place across the MedStar Health System. Thank you to all the Research Institute associates that joined us at University Town Center, MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, and MedStar Washington Hospital Center to connect with other associates and learn about the latest endeavors at the Research Institute.

    Dr. Neil Wesissman opened the town hall with a safety moment. In the last few months, there have been two reported shootings on site of two of our MedStar locations, MedStar Harbor Hospital (Baltimore, MD) and University Town Center (Hyattsville, MD). Dr. Weissman discussed the importance of being prepared for workplace violence or an active shooter situation. He encouraged associates to watch the “Run, Hide, Fight” video created by MedStar associates which demonstrates what to do in the event of an active shooter situation in the healthcare setting. The RUN, HIDE, FIGHT video and other tools and resources are available on StarPort at

    Jim Boscoe, our new Director of the Office of Research Integrity provided updates to associates regarding the IRB and IACUC committees. The Georgetown-MedStar eIRB system, Huron, implemented a recent update to the application system to include minor modifications and a more stable environment for users to experience. The Office of Research Integrity has an open position in their department and are exploring opportunities to make improvements with operations. The IACUC committee recently implemented a new electronic application system, Streamlyne, to manage and review animal research studies. The system went live on October 17th.

    The operating goals and initiatives for FY20 were discussed. Associates should have been provided with the MHRI “Plan-on-a-Page” which highlights the goals for the Research Institute for FY20 and provides a clear line-of-sight for associates to support their engagement with the organization. A fun game of Jeopardy was played which covered the FY20 Plan-on-a-page and celebrated the winning team at each town hall. If you did not receive a copy of the Plan-on-a-Page, please contact Congratulations to all our winning Jeopardy teams! Thank you all for playing!


    The Power to Heal campaign begins November 1 and runs through November 30. Associates are invited to join the gratitude movement by participating and making a Gift of Gratitude in honor of a colleague, friend or caregiver. Since 2016, 21 new investigators have been supported by MedStar associates. This year’s Power to Heal Campaign at MedStar Health Research Institute will benefit the New Investigator Fund. To learn about the projects that were funded by the 2018 campaign, view the press release here.

    Research would not be possible without our associates and without the patients who participate. Thank you for being a part of our vision to advance health through research.

  • November 02, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Congratulations to all MedStar researchers who had articles published in October 2019. The selected articles and link to PubMed provided below represent the body of work completed by MedStar Health investigators, physicians, and associates and published in peer-reviewed journals last month. The list is compiled from PubMed for any author using “MedStar” in the author affiliation. Congratulations to this month’s authors. We look forward to seeing your future research.

    View the full list of publications on here.

    Selected research:

    1. Second-generation drug-eluting resorbable magnesium scaffold: Review of the clinical evidence
      Cardiovascular Revascularization Medicine, 2019. DOI:10.1016/j.carrev.2019.10.012
      Ozaki Y, Garcia-Garcia HM, Shlofmitz E, Hideo-Kajita A, Waksman R.
    2. Virtual reality for pain management in patients with heart failure: Study rationale and design.
      Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications, 2019. DOI:10.1016/j.conctc.2019.100470     
      Stewart D, Mete M, Groninger H.

    3. Outcomes of the Medial Femoral Trochlea Osteochondral Free Flap for Proximal Scaphoid Reconstruction.
      Journal of Hand Surgery, 2019. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2019.08.008 
      Pet MA, Assi PE, Yousaf IS, Giladi AM, Higgins JP.

    4. Diabetes Education for Behavioral Health Inpatients: Challenges and Opportunities.
      Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 2019. DOI:10.1177/1078390319878781
      Bardsley JK, Baker KM, Smith KM, Magee MF.
  • November 02, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    The Delivery System Science Fellowship application cycle for the 2020 cohort is NOW OPEN! The Academy Health Delivery System Science Fellowship (DSSF) provides a year-long professional development opportunity for highly qualified, doctorally-prepared individuals to gain more applied experience in a delivery system setting. MedStar Health Research Institute is one of six participating host sites. We are pleased to welcome Jason Brown, PhD, RN as our Academy Health Delivery System Science Fellow for this year. Dr. Jason Brown’s research interest include patient and provider decision support, behavioral economics, data science, clinical informatics, and healthcare disparities. Read his full bio here.

    The goal of the fellowship is to provide hands-on training and professional opportunities for highly qualified researchers with a background in health services research (HSR) or related fields to enhance analytic skills and ultimately increase the capacity of the HSR workforce. Applications are now being accepted for 2020. The deadline to apply is January 1, 2020.

    Submit an Intent to Apply
    Once applicants submit a brief Intent to Apply form, they will receive a link to the full application.

    Application Deadline: Wednesday, January 1, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. ET

    Questions? Please contact DSSF staff at