Pediatrics is a seasonal specialty, and knowing what comes when helps patients, parents, and pediatricians prepare.
Phenology is the study of periodic life events: when birds migrate, flowers bloom. Here in Northern California, we watch for the first rains to dampen the fire season and bring snow to the Sierras. Humpback whales migrate past Point Reyes and through Monterey Bay in the weeks around New Years. In spring, we watch for plum and cherry blossoms and for birds building their nests.
Here in the office, I am watching for the first rash of eczema cases. Back-to-school and cooler weather sends us all indoors. Medically speaking, sunlight is a mixed bag: while the sun’s radiation increases the risk of skin cancer, a certain amount of UV radiation has a trophic, or growth-promoting, effect on our skin. Sunlight is a tried and true treatment for certain skin conditions.
Most years, I can circle a date on the calendar when I start seeing dry, irritated skin. Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, responds to moisturizers. One bath regimen for over-dry skin involves a good 15 minute soak in warm water without any bath products followed by cleaning dirty areas with a minimal amount of a mild soap or gentle body wash. Rinse with clear water and get out of the tub. Pat dry, don’t rub. It’s good to leave the skin a little damp and then slather on a greasy moisturizer–we call these emollients. They lock in the moisture. Reapply the emollient frequently during the day, and on those sunny days, get outside and play.