Common culprits in our homes that affect our skin
By Dr Erum ILYAS
Have you ever thought about whether the cause for some of your skin problems could be in your home? Here are some of the most common culprits!
I often see patients for rashes on their eyelids, necks, and hands and they feel as though they try to change a number of products to identify the culprit. Although it is true that contact dermatitis can be the result of a number of sources, one of the interesting ones that we usually discover through patch testing (a form of skin allergy testing) is airborne contact dermatitis to air fresheners and aerosolized products. Sometimes when you walk into a room and it smells fragrant it can be the result of air fresheners or cleaning agents. For those allergic to fragrances this can be a big problem. The exposed areas of their skin and often the thinnest skin areas such as eyelids and necks are frequently affected. This can also occur from allergies to formaldehyde that can be found in smoke from fireplaces and cigarettes. if you suffer from frequent rashes over the face, neck and hands and have trouble identifying triggers, it may be worth considering a trip to your dermatologist for patch testing to identify causes to help pinpoint what to avoid.
Indoor UV exposure
Another common issue that we frequently discuss these days is sun damage. Many people focus on outdoor exposure to UV light. I have many patients that tell me -" I never even go outside, I’m at work all day— why am I still seeing new freckles and new evidence of uv damage?!” The reality is that many energy efficient lightbulbs, fluorescent lighting in particular, may have UV that escapes the bulb. Fluorescent light has mercury vapor and emits UV when it is turned on by an electric current. There is a layer of phosphorus that coats the inside of a bulb that is meant to absorb the UV. However, many studies have show that there are often cracks in the phosphorus coating that are common and UV escapes these bulbs. They emit UV often in the UVA range. The UVA range does not cause sun burns however it does damage the skin deeply leading to thinning of the skin and freckles and discoloration. Thinking about UV protection indoors or re-evaluating your light sources is important to think about!
Dry air in the home can exacerbate or aggravate those with eczema prone skin. It can help to use moisturizers more frequently and consider adding a humidifier to your home environment to alleviate this issue.
Staphylococcus aureus can find its way onto razors, towels, bed sheets, etc. Once this colonizes our skin, we can find frequent breakouts of pustules and boils over your thighs, buttocks, under arms, nose, etc. It often lives inside our nostrils, under the arms or the fold between the hip and groin. When you rest your razor down after shaving, it would help to place it upright in a cup to allow it to air dry instead of face down on the counter or shower ledge to avoid colonization. Washing towels and bedsheets at least once weekly if not a couple times a week will help reduce this exposure. Once colonized however it may be helpful to see your Dermatologist to consider a prolonged course of oral antibiotics and a routine topical antibiotic to treat the carrier state over the course of a couple of months to clear this out.
Green nail syndrome
Green nail syndrome is quite literally when your nails can actually turn green. This can occur from exposure to Pseudomona bacteria in your hot tub or shower. It can be easily treated with vinegar soaks but it is a sign that its important to thoroughly clean water sources in your home that are at a warmer temperature. This bacteria tends to thrive in warm water environments.
Plantar warts are caused by the wart virus (HPV - not the same one that is considered an STD). The wart virus can find its way onto your shower floor and lead to warts on the feet of other family members! I think its helpful to spray the shower down with a cleaner after showering to reduce exposure if you have plantar warts while you have them treated. Poison Ivy
Lastly I wanted to mention poison ivy for one big reason- the resin from the leaves that causes poison ivy can stay on inanimate objects for years if not washed off. I often find cases of poison ivy in people insistent that they never came into direct contact with it. There can be indirect contact via objects such as doorknobs, rakes and items that had exposure to the resin. It’s helpful to take a soapy washcloth and wipe down doorknobs, rake handles, etc to avoid exposure.