Skin surgeon and dermatologist Dr. Keith LeBlanc Jr., founder of The Skin Surgery Centre, has some professional tips for this incredibly active flu season. While the virus may take a toll on our bodies, it is possible for it to have less of an effect on our skin. Unfortunately, once you have the flu there is not much you can do besides take some aspirin, lie in bed, and sip on some chicken noodle soup. Viruses that infect your nose, throat, and lungs can spread easily from person to person and cause the flu. Dr. Keith Leblanc demonstrates how to avoid the flu by keeping your skin healthy.
1) Flu vaccines – Your skin’s best defense against the flu is to not acquire the flu at all. Vaccines include the basic flu shot, which is injected into the muscle of the arm, and the intradermal shot that delivers flu antigens under the skin not the muscle. The quadrivalent vaccine is offered as a shot or nasal spray and protects against the trivalent’s three strains plus an additional influenza B virus.
2) Stay Moisturized – Flu season is a dry time for your skin. Use a lip balm and lotion to prevent lips and face from chapping and flaking. Skin creams may be better to use than lotions because they are thicker and richer in moisture. Find one with an SPF and you’ll also protect your skin from harmful rays that are just as dangerous in winter months as in the summer (especially if you like the window seat when traveling by car or plane). Many organic and natural brands sell moisturizing, gentle soaps made with essential oils and healthy plant extracts. Stick your lotions in the refrigerator, applying cold products can constrict capillaries and reduce redness of the skin.
3) Stay Hydrated – Dry air makes your skin itch, and it also affects the mouth, eyes, and nasal areas. When dehydrated, these areas are more vulnerable to the flu. Although it’s winter don’t assume cooler weather means you can skimp on hydration! Keep your fluid consumption consistent by drinking eight glasses of water a day. This may also mean avoiding the alcoholic beverages and celebratory champagne.
4) Wash Hands – Wash with warm, not hot, water to keep skin from drying out. Remember to avoid cleansers with harsh detergents (glycerin oils and natural cleansers are good choices) and stay away from alcohol-packed hand sanitizers. Also, limit the amount you touch your face, hands, and eyes because this is how flu germs spread. Keep a moisturizer on your person or by the sink to ensure you follow up with hydration therapy.
5) Minimize Nose Redness – Use a clear cotton swab and gently apply a petroleum-based product, such as Vaseline, to the inside rim of your nostrils where it is very irritated. Use lotion-enriched tissues that are thick but still remain soft. Compared to other tissues, they may slow the quickness with which your nose becomes raw.
6) Don’t Use as Many Exfoliating Products – Steer clear of harsh exfoliating scrubs, which can irritate, dry, chafe, and strip your skin of natural oils. Be gentle with your skin, and go for products that have natural and hydrating exfoliating properties. Using the right exfoliating products, during winter months, effectively removes dry and scaly skin.
7) Dress appropriately – During the winter months, cover the bottom half of your face with a scarf, wear a hat that covers your ears and make sure hands and feet –- which are especially prone to drying, cracking, and redness — are kept warm and dry. In extreme cases, you can even apply a thin layer of Vaseline over the face as it prevents blood vessels from expanding as soon when exposed to frozen temperatures.
8) Immune Boosting Botanicals – Botanicals address the various means by which the flu impairs the body such as through inflammation. Botanicals can also strengthen the respiratory track, and enhance immune system response at the first sign of the flu. There are a number of botanicals that have a potent immune-boosting effect. These include echinacea, astragalus, Siberian ginseng, catnip, ginger root, garlic, and Elder flower.
9) Use a humidifier – Although the weather in our region typically does not require any additional moisture, the dry heat in your house can wreak havoc on skin that’s not used to that atmosphere. Consider a humidifier for any room in which you may be spending a great deal of time. Also, closing the door to the bathroom when bathing is a great way to lock in the moisture.