• healthevisits

Keeping winter skin healthy


Cold, dry air and intense indoor heating is a perfect formula for wintertime skin issues, whether your skin simply feels tight and uncomfortable, it’s so dry that it’s cracking and flaking or it’s so inflamed that you’re constantly itching. Stop using gloves and mittens as an excuse to hide rough, cracked hands—keep your skin moisturized during the winter by following these tips.

Stay dry…

Wear protective outerwear when you go outside, but avoid irritation from fabrics like wool by wearing it over a thin cotton-based layer. Ditch your wet socks, gloves and other outerwear as soon as you’re out of the cold. The fabric’s wetness on your skin—especially the more sensitive skin on your hands—can cause irritation, itching, cracking and even sores if left on too long.

But stay hydrated.

If you’re cozying up to your space heater or blasting your heating system, you’re exposing yourself to hot, dry air that can lead to dry, itchy skin. Combat this by setting up several small humidifiers in your home or workspace to distribute skin-saving moisture.

Keep that moisture locked into your skin for as long as possible by using an oil-based moisturizer; the oil creates a protective layer, keeping moisture in. Look for an oil-based moisturizer that is labeled non-clogging, so that the oil will soak into the skin instead of just sitting on top of it. For the tougher skin on your feet, try exfoliating accumulated dead skin off before applying a lotion with petroleum jelly or glycerine.

Stay warm (not hot)…

Moisturizers are most effective when applied after a shower or bath, but keep an eye on your water temperature. Steaming hot showers are tempting after spending time in the cold, but the temperature intensity breaks down barriers in the skin that leads to loss of moisture. Stick to warm water and limit your tub time. If you’re especially itchy, try a lukewarm bath with oatmeal or baking soda to calm skin.

And stay protected.

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean it’s time to skip the sunscreen. Sunlight at any time of year can damage skin—if you’re squinting against the glare of the sun against snow, think of how that’s impacting your skin as well! Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen on any exposed skin about half an hour before going outside, and reapply if you’re exposed for more than an hour or sweating heavily. In addition to the SPF, cut back on any alcohol-based facial products that strip your skin of its natural oils or clay-based products that draw moisture out of skin.

If you’re experiencing chronic inflammation, itchiness or other skin issues, it might be a good idea to talk to your clinician about his or her recommended products and care regimens for your specific skin type and needs. Take care of your skin and keep a healthy winter glow!


Author: Michele Holder MD

Dr. Holder specializes in the treatment and diagnosis of disorders of the skin for all ages, and is known to be committed to comprehensive, compassionate patient care. Dr. Holder earned her medical degree at the University of Iowa College of Medicine-Iowa City. She served her residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, University of Iowa-Iowa City.

Caution: Thin Ice!

Over 6,000 named lakes in Wisconsin provide many opportunities to play on the ice. How do we know when it’s safe?

Here are some guidelines before going out on the ice.

  • Test the thickness of the ice and retest every ten feet with an ice chisel, ice auger or cordless drill.
  • Wear a life vest under your winter gear (not when traveling in an enclosed vehicle).
  • Carry ice picks to help pull yourself back onto solid ice if you break through.
  • Dress warmly, in layers.
  • Tell people where you’re going and never go out on the ice without a buddy.
  • Refrain from driving on ice whenever possible. If you do need to drive on the ice, keep your windows partially open to avoid becoming trapped if your car breaks through.

What should you do if someone falls through the ice? First, call 911. If you can safely reach the victim from shore, use an object such as a rope or jumper cables, then have the person roll or wiggle to shore.

For more information, visit Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ website at dnr.wi.gov.
Author: Liz Kracht, RN, BSN

Liz is the Pediatric Trauma and Injury Prevention Coordinator at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield.

Winter tips

While there may be little snow on the ground temperatures are dropping and it is never too early to prepare for Wisconsin’s most dominant season, winter. Icy roads, frostbite and snowstorms are just some examples of the dangers you can experience during the winter months.

There is still time to prepare to keep your family happy and healthy when the colder weather sets in.


  • To avoid your gas freezing, try not to let your gas tank get down to less than one-quarter of a tank
  • Keep essential items like blankets, food and water, first aid kit, jumper cables, a candle and lighter – in case you become stranded unexpectedly

At Home

  • Check your heating systems, inspect and clean fireplaces
  • Stock up on non-perishable food items
  • Keep an up-to-date emergency/first aid kit

Dressing for outdoor activities

  • When the temperature is below zero, make sure any exposable skin is covered when outdoors for a prolonged period of time, to avoid frostbite
  • Waterproof items are ideal for young children, who spend a lot of time outdoors
  • Layer multiple clothing pieces to help stay dry

Staying Healthy

Cold and flu season is upon us and ways to stay healthy during the winter include the following:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Keep a healthy diet; it may be hard to avoid over-eating during the holidays, but a balanced diet will help keep your body in fighting shape during the winter
  • Exercise regularly

Chronic back pain: Tips for keeping your back healthy during winter

Shoveling Snow

In the Midwest, winter typically means icy roads, slippery sidewalks and snowdrifts. These aren’t pleasant for anyone, but they’re especially perilous for individuals who suffer from chronic back pain. Too much snow shoveling or a wrong move on an unsalted sidewalk can mean days or even weeks of pain. Below are a few tips and reminders on how to avoid exacerbated muscle fatigue and back injury throughout the season of snow.

Warm up before doing any strenuous activity | Stretching isn’t just for athletics! Get your heart rate up by jogging in place or doing jumping jacks, then do some simple stretches, focusing on the areas of the body that you’ll be using. For activities like shoveling or carrying large loads, stretch your lower back by touching your fingers as low to the ground as you can without bending your knees, then raising your arms straight above your head while slowly stretching your neck from side to side. Also do some twisting of your trunk and arms back and forth.

Slow down | Take your time—your back will thank you! If there are any existing or potential winter weather hazards, give yourself extra time in your travels. Don’t rush on sidewalks or driveways, and take advantage of railings on stairs. Flailing to catch your balance can cause worsened back pain just as easily as outright falling can. You can also avoid falls by wearing footwear with reliable traction or utilizing a walking stick to enhance your stability.

Don’t take on too much | Whether you’re disposing of your Christmas tree or lugging a large load of shopping from your vehicle, be careful with how much you’re carrying and how you’re carrying it. Never bend at your lower back. Instead, bend at the hips and knees and engage your abdominal muscles to keep your back straight. Distribute the weight of what you’re carrying as equally as you can, and keep it as close to your body as possible. Take breaks when your body tells you it has had enough, and stop what you’re doing if you experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden sharp lower back pain
  • Shooting pains in your legs

If these symptoms do not subside, go to the closest emergency room or call 911.

Stay active | As important as it is to go easy while lifting and walking in hazardous conditions, it’s also important to keep your muscles strong with regular exercise. Strong muscles—especially a strong core—actually help you avoid future injuries by supporting your body! If it’s too cold to go to the gym, try a series of bodyweight exercises. Consult with your clinician to develop an exercise routine that fits your health needs, and you’ll be able to enjoy the season without the extra pains! Many times it is normal to be a little sore or stiff after doing things such as shoveling snow. If the pain is sharp, it prevents you from doing your normal activities for more than a day or two, or you experience shooting pain into your legs or arms, see a healthcare provider. Normal muscle discomfort should subside 1-2 days after the activity.

Author: Dennis Kaster PT, OCS

Dennis is the director for Rehabilitation Services at Ministry Saint Michael’s Hospital in Stevens Point.

Winter Driving: Being Prepared Means Being Safe


Driving can be hazardous when roads are covered with snow, ice or slush. Each winter season in Wisconsin, approximately 45 people are killed and 5,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes. Many of these accidents can be prevented by following these safety tips.

  • Avoid driving, especially if visibility is poor.
  • Wait until the snow is plowed; allow extra time to get to your destination.
  • If you must drive, headlights should be on low beam.

Your vehicle also needs attention.

  • Check the battery. Cold can reduce battery effectiveness by 50 percent.
  • Tire tread, anti-freeze level and windshield wipers should also be checked.
  • Have at least half a tank of gas in your car at all times to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Provide an emergency winter kit in your car that includes blankets, shovel, flashlight and batteries, sand or kitty litter for traction, first aid kit, and high-energy, non-perishable foods. Jumper cables, a tool kit, ice scraper and brush are also essentials.

Plan your travels and keep current on the latest weather. You can find the latest road conditions at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s website at www.511wi.gov, or call 511. Preparedness is always the best prevention tool!

Author: Liz Kracht, RN, BSN

Liz is the Pediatric Trauma and Injury Prevention Coordinator for Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield.

Disclaimer: The information found on Affinity's blog is a general educational aid. Do not rely on this information or treat it as a substitute for personal medical or health care advice, or for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified health care provider as soon as possible about any medical or health-related question and do not wait for a response from our experts before such consultation. If you have a medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately.

The Affinity Health System blog contains opinions and views created by community members. Affinity does endorse the contributions of community members. You should not assume the information posted by community members is accurate and you should never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this site.