By Dr. Peter Saitta
Our city during the holiday season is a very special place. Streets are filled with Christmas cheer, Santa is on his sleigh, and shop windows are magnificently dressed for the occasion. But the freezing cold air and bitter winds of our famous New York winters can sting, irritate, and dry your skin, all of which will make your atopic dermatitis much more of a problem.
Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema or atopic eczema, is a complex, complicated, and very common problem. It can be affected by genetics, geography, your body’s immune system, and a cold, windy climate like the one in which we live. It rarely appears for the first time in adulthood; rather, it most commonly manifests within the first five years of life. A great deal is known about the condition in all its forms, however, no one really knows why some people outgrow it while others do not. Approximately 20% of children and 3% of adults will contend with atopic dermatitis for a lifetime.
Recently, I had the privilege of discussing the condition with one of our city’s most prominent dermatologists, Dr. Ronald Brancaccio. Our offices are located in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and on our very own Perry Street. We explain to our patients that atopic dermatitis is definitely not an allergy, although it is frequently seen in individuals with a family history of asthma, hay fever, and other allergies. It is important to note that food cannot cause or exacerbate atopic dermatitis.
Atopic dermatitis is rarely cured, but it can easily be managed under the care of an experienced dermatologist. Dr. Brancaccio suggests the following guidelines that may help you deal with the condition at home: (1) Steer clear of harsh soaps and use unscented Dove soap for best results. (2) Wear breathable fabrics such as 100% cotton, and steer clear of scratchy, heavy materials like wool. (3) Do your best to limit stress. Few of us could live, or even imagine, a stress-free life, but if you have atopic dermatitis, an increase in stress is likely to trigger a new episode or worsen an existing one. (4) Moisturize your skin daily with a moisturizer that contains petrolatum, glycerin, and some ceramide. I enthusiastically recommend CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. Find it over the counter in the white and blue jar and use it often. (5) Keep a journal of the things that trigger your atopic dermatitis and avoid those things when possible. If these suggestions aren’t enough, my colleague, Dr. Anna Karp, and I are here in our Perry Street office to help you with various types of medication, light and laser phototherapy, and other simple and painless methods of successfully controlling atopic dermatitis.
Drs. Brancaccio, Karp, and I hope you had a happy holiday and will have a healthy new year. Make controlling your atopic dermatitis one of your New Year’s resolutions. It’s the doctor’s order and your skin will thank you!