Avera Medical Minute: Combating dry skin, eczema in the winter

MITCHELL, S.D. (KSFY) - The winter season brings on a whole new set of challenges: driving in the snow, shoveling the driveway and that dry, itchy skin. It's something people, old and young, might deal with for a very long time.

Ben McEntee is one of Dr. Mandi Greenway's youngest patients. At just one year old, Ben has struggled with eczema since he was a newborn.

"He can't tell me if it hurts, so i said, 'he's itching it.' She said, 'yep.' Eczema is the itch that rashes. It's really important to go to someone who knows how to treat it and what to do," Ben's mom Kate McEntee said.

In Mitchell -- that is Avera medical group dermatologist Dr. Mandi Greenway.

"Around October, we have all of these people come in with itchy rashes everywhere," Dr. Greenway said.

He said the best way to treat dry skin is to prevent it.

"The more we can moisturize every single day," Dr. Greenway said. "The biggest thing is not so much the lotion you use, but how you use it. Shower or bath, not hot but warm, immediately get out and pat dry, and apply moisturizer."

She suggests the thick, bland over-the-counter moisturizers.

"There was a good study that showed if you started using lotions before six months, you cut your risk of developing eczema in half," Dr. Greenway said. "Moisturizer they used was Vaseline."

Understanding eczema is much easier when you think about how the skin works.

With eczema, the skin barrier is weak and lets too much of the good stuff out and the bad stuff in -- like bacteria, viruses and allergens.

"That's why, with people with eczema, it's so much more important to keep that skin barrier as healthy as possible with moisturizer," Dr. Greenway said.

She said if you can't control the itchy rash with over-the-counter moisturizers, see a doctor.

"There are lots of easy things we can do to make you feel much better," Dr. Greenway said. "Especially for kids, they have a hard time sleeping, that impacts their whole day. If you can't control it with the stuff you do at home, come in."

Ben was referred to a dermatologist by his primary care physician at 6 months old.

"When we first got diagnosed and treatment from her, it was gone within a week," McEntee said. "We'd been battling it for awhile until that point. It was nice to have the right stuff at the right time. Having her in Mitchell, a dermatologist, has been so nice because working full-time, having kids, it's hard to get anywhere but your hometown.

Simple tips from Dr. Greenway have taught McEntee how to better care for her own skin and her family's skin, too, at home.

"If anyone has concerns or issues, make an appointment and she'll do what's minimal and what's best for your family," McEntee said.

Dr. Greenway said moisturizing is key in the winter, but also to stay hydrated, drinking as often as you can helps your skin stay hydrated from the inside out.

For more information, visit Avera.org.