Preparing for Fall Together
Our favorite sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, warm apple cider, colorful leaves, and crisp, cool air gets us into the spirit of the fall season. As we prepare this autumn, we are facing apocalyptic fires ravaging through several Western states, the pandemic still in full effect, and the flu season.
Staying home and getting cozy in our thick socks sounds better than ever this fall. Whether near or far, we are all affected. In addition to our physical and mental health, our ecosystem is suffering from the loss of wildlife, farm animals, crops, clean air, and boundless natural preserve.
As I sat outside for a few minutes, I noticed that my phone was partially covered in ash. The next day, I parked my car close to a beach, and when I came back, it looked as if it had been sprinkled with powdered sugar.
The nearest fire is about 40 miles from me. If that much ash is traveling distances, then, what else is in the air? We've reached alarming levels of air pollution on the West Coast. How do fires affect our health? Can fires affect our skin health, too? Yes. Over the years, some doctors have linked skin rashes to triggering preexisting skin conditions, and possibly manifesting new ones to the after-effects of fires.
"Once absorbed by the skin, particulate matter produced from forest fires can inflict their damage by creating oxidative stress via free radical production. These very unstable molecules can cause damage to the skin and lead to wrinkles and pigment spots. Particulate matter may aggravate inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and acne as well. Finally, particulate matter may increase the risk for skin cancer." explains the company, LearnSkin.
After fall comes winter, and people who have fireplaces, space heaters, or a fire pit will sit in front of one for hours. It's tempting, but not a good thing for your skin. There is a temporary condition called toasted skin syndrome, or medically called, erythema ab igne (EAI). Not to worry, it's typically temporary.
"EAI is a skin reaction caused by chronic exposure to infrared radiation in the form of heat. It was once a common condition seen in the elderly who stood or sat closely to open fires or electric space heaters," explained DermNet NZ.
Worrying whether you have Covid-19 symptoms, the flu, a common cold, or reacting from the air quality is altogether exhausting.
This week, I spoke with Dr. Van J. Veloso, MD who has over 17 years of experience as a general internist tech. Additionally, he has 10+ years in aesthetic dermatology. Dr. Veloso is also the Medical Director and practice owner at the highly-respected, MedSpa in Valencia, Santa Clarita, California.
VJ: "It's a combination of a bunch of different things. I think a lot of it has to do with some of the things you eat. There are a lot of articles that talk about, for example, acne. It's very individualized. Some people respond to chocolate differently. You can tell when certain foods will precipitate problematic skin conditions. The really important thing about skin is hydration. People don't drink enough water."
VJ: "First, internally, it's water. Number two is adequate sleep for a number of health reasons, but for skin health, it's also good. The third thing is sunscreen."
Do you believe that supplements work at all?
VJ: ”The jury is out on a lot of supplements. Biotin is good. T-Retinoid Acid (Retin-A) has been reproducibly proven to help with suppleness and prevention of wrinkles. Everything else depends on what studies I look at.”
With all the fires and pollution on the West Coast, what are the health risks we will be facing?
VJ: "Obviously, there may be some lung issues that can occur, such as pulmonary diseases. As for the skin, pollutants have a tendency to clog pores. In that sense, it may have some adverse effects on skin conditions."
Is there a way to protect ourselves and our skin during this chaotic time? Can the mask help us?
VJ: "The mask, for Coronavirus, will help. As for particulate matter and what the air quality is like, unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot. Staying indoors is a better idea than going outdoors. I know a lot of kids are doing outdoor classes. But you're actually breathing in the air at a much faster rate than you would at rest; which doesn't mean that I don't think exercise is a good idea. But this is one of those times it's helpful to have equipment at home and have an air conditioner with a clean filter. One thing I would suggest is that people change their air conditioning filters now."
VJ: "More than anything else right now is that flu shots are available. I know there are people who are anti-vaxxers, but we really need to decrease the rate of flu infections. If people start getting hospitalized for the flu, they'll be in close proximity to people who have Coronavirus. We don't know what can happen. Hospitals will be using limited resources, such as ventilators. So, if you're putting someone with the flu on a ventilator, then that's also a ventilator you can't use on someone who has Covid."
I've had the flu and it was brutal. After reading about symptoms for the flu and for Covid on the CDC's website, I can't tell the difference, except for the loss of taste and smell.
VJ: "The symptoms are exactly the same. There's not much to differentiate between the two. The other thing is if you think you have the flu, you only have 48 hours to get treated for it. Flu medication, those only will only work within 48 hours. So, if you allow it to go for three or four days, you wait until the weekend to see your doctor, well, guess what? It's too late. The only way to do that over the weekend is to go to urgent care or an emergency room where, again, there are people who are potentially infected with the Coronavirus. There's every possibility you could get both infections. Flu shot. Flu shot. Flu shot. People always confuse it with the common cold. They're like, 'You know what? I got the flu. It usually lasts a couple of days.' I'm telling you, that's not the flu. It'll knock you out."
No matter what we choose to do this fall, we all want to be safe and healthy. This is a time where every professional agrees that we should take extra precautionary measures as we try to live our lives as normal as possible—wherever you are.
With all the added stress this autumn, we should continue to give our skin love. We shouldn't feel guilty for it. Keeping up our skincare routines, and including potent products, such as Rescue Skin serum to fight the increasing free radicals is important, too.