Phenology

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.

photo by Helena Paffen

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.

About Lisa M. Asta, MD

Lisa M. Asta, M.D. is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for which she is also a Media Representative (she has been interviewed for “Kids Health” on Health Radio, and quoted in Parenting Magazine, USA Today, and the New York Times, among other publications). She is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco and past pediatric chair at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She graduated from Temple University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Asta is also a writer whose fiction has appeared in Inkwell, Philadelphia Stories, Schuylkill, and Zeniada. Her essays have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hippocrates, the San Jose Mercury News, and The New Physician Magazine. She is an occasional contributor to KQED public radio’s Perspectives series, and has written articles for Bay Area Parent, Valley Parent, Parents’ Press, and Parents Express, as well as online at WebMD.com, Rx.com, and MyLifePath.com. She wrote a chapter in The Field Guide to the Normal Newborn, ed. Gary Emmet, M.D. BabyCenter.com currently has two how-to videos for parents in production which feature Dr. Asta. For more on Dr. Asta’s writing, visit www.LMAsta.com
This entry was posted in Pediatric Bits and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s