Feb 11, 2014

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

I like being a pharmacist because I like meeting and helping people. It turns out those are great reasons to join a service club as well. Service Clubs have names like the Lions Club, the Rotary Club or the Community Foundation. I happen to belong to the Kinsmen Club of Dauphin. I really enjoy it. When I first moved to Dauphin, what I liked most about Kinsmen was that I met people outside of health care. Now my favorite Club activities include our yearly trip to Yorkton for the Yorkton Kinsmens Perogy Cup hockey tournament and when we give money to worthy groups like the Parkland Crisis Center. The motto of the Kinsmen is To Serve the Communitys Greatest Needs. Right now, I think one of those needs is dry skin and cracked lips.

News Flash! In Dauphin is gets cold in the winter! Cold air holds much less water vapor in it than warm air. When we warm up this cold air in our houses, its relative humidity drops and it sucks up water from our lips and skin. The same thing happens outside. The cold air gets warmed up as it enters our bodies through our mouth and nose, its relative humidity drops and it sucks the moisture out of our lips.

Have you ever seen your daughter walk out of her room and all the hair on her head was standing on end? I have and it is not because I am a scary father (I hope). It is because the air in my house was so dry it promoted the build up of static electricity. The first place you may want to go is a hardware store. You want to keep you houses relative humidity near (but not over) 50%. Most hardware stores will sell you a relative humidity meter. To increase the relative humidity, you need to evaporate water. The least expensive way is to leave out containers of water. This is slow, but it will help. A more pricey option is to buy a humidifier. I recommend a cool mist one, because there is no danger of spilling hot water on yourself or others. You can buy small ones for a room or small apartment in your pharmacy. Hardware stores will have larger ones. Again, aim for 40-50% relative humidity.

Next, before exposing your skin to the harshness of winter, take a few extra minutes to "winterize" your skin and lips. To counter dry, flaky skin you can apply a moisturizing cream daily, especially after bathing. I know the ads for the creams talk about all the moisturizers in them, but really, the creams work best at holding in the moisture that is already there. So, as soon as you step out of the tub, towel off (by patting, not rubbing) and apply the cream. Moisturizers do not have to be expensive to be effective. But, it is best to avoid products with perfumes because they may irritate the skin.

Because dry skin and lips are caused by water loss to the air, an important thing to remember is to drink lots of water. For most people, 8-10 glasses of water per day are recommended. There are other products which remove water from your body, and should be avoided like excessive alcohol, and caffeine. Some prescription medications like diuretics dry you out as well, but don't stop them without consulting your doctor. People with certain heart, lung, and other conditions should avoid excess fluid intake. If you think you are fluid restricted, but are unsure, ask your doctor before drinking lots of water.

Windburn is a common complaint in winter. You can apply sunblock to your face and lips before an outdoor winter activity to help prevent windburn (it will help sun burn too, which can happen in bright winter sun). Even a thin film of moisturizer will act as a good windscreen.

Dry, cracked lips can to be bothersome. Also many people bite or pick at them and which makes them worse. Lip balms and protectants are available in cream, ointment, or stick formats to ease application. Lipsticks can also be used as a good indoor moisturizer. Again, drinking lots of water will help.

Whichever product you use, for skin or lip moisturizing or protection, repeated application is a key factor in maintaining your body's natural moisture and protecting it from the harsh winter elements.

Dry cracked lips and dry skin may be two of Dauphins Greatest Needs, but I believe there are others. Saturday, February 22 has been designated Kinsmens National Day of Kindness. A little birdy told me the Dauphin Kinsmen will be doing something special for people in Dauphin. That same little birdy said to watch for the Kinsmen on Main Street. Stay tuned.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.

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The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.



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