January 20, 2022

Saving skin in severe cold

Physician’s assistant offers tips for protection during frigid temps

Kevin Conlon/city editor

Maryanne Hart of Cortland walks on Tuesday afternoon past the Cortland Waterworks on Broadway as the temperature stood at 5 degrees. After a slight warm up over the next coulple of days, temperatures will dip to negative 10 by Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

The bitter cold of winter may be inevitable when living in Central New York, however, dry and cracked skin doesn’t have to be.

As temperatures dropped to single digits Tuesday — and schools delayed opening or closed altogether — a physician’s assistant from Guthrie Medical Group gave tips on how to save your skin from the snow and cold.

Central New York will get a reprieve, of sorts, over the next couple of days as the National Weather Service at Binghamton forecasts a 30% chance of snow showers moving into Thursday, with a high of 35 degrees and a low of 11 degrees Thursday night.

But by Friday night, the low is expected to drop below zero, and the high for Saturday will barely reach double digits — sitting right at 10 degrees.

And don’t forget the wind. At 5 degrees, a 10 mph breeze would result in a wind chill factor of nearly minus-10 degrees.

The National Weather Service recommends wearing layers of loosefitting, lightweight, warm clothing, including a hat, mittens and mouthcovering. Check your car’s tire pressure, antifreeze levels, heater and defroster, learn how to shut off the water valves in your home for potential pipe bursts, and keep yourself and your pets inside to avoid the cold.

The combination of frigid weather and constant hand washing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, dry skin could likely become a problem for you if it hasn’t already.

“The reason that we need to focus on taking care of our skin is because, as the largest organ of our body, our skin serves so many different purposes,” said Melissa O’Banion, a physician’s assistant for Guthrie’s clinic in Ithaca. “Our skin obviously protects our other organs from sunlight, harmful chemicals, friction and even infection.”

And it can do so because of water, she said.

“Water moves from the deeper layers of the skin to the surface and then evaporates away, so by keeping moisture in that top layer, we provide our skin with the most important tool to do all of those jobs,” O’Banion said.

O’Banion suggests taking shorter showers at a lower temperature and following up with a layer of lotion all over.

“And make sure you’re keeping your fluid intake up and using humidifiers at home in the winter,” O’Banion said. “It’s common for the air in our homes to become very dry, which can further dry out your skin. And if we’re not staying hydrated ourselves, that’s just going to contribute to the problem.”