Doctor’s tips for healthy skin: How to keep bacteria and viruses out

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

From my last post, you know the skin has many functions vital for a healthy body.  It’s pretty low-maintenance, aesthetics aside.  However, there are some basics you need to follow to keep this organ in tip-top shape.

For the inner layers, you need plenty of water to keep them hydrated and lots of fruits and vegetables for healthy growth.   A healthy diet helps new cells grow properly, and oil and sweat glands function properly.  There is no supplement to take the place of this.

In addition, proper external skin-care is a must.  Why?

All sorts of bacteria make homes on your skin—even staph and strep.  Your skin is also exposed to other bacteria; parasites; and viruses, like hepatitis and HIV.  As long as it’s intact and you don’t put your hands in your mouth or nose, you’re pretty doggone safe.  But just one little scratch—say a cuticle tear—and any lurking microorganisms will find the opening.  Fortunately, there’s backup from your immune system.  That’s what all the redness, increased warmth, and sometimes pain and swelling is about: evidence your body is doing battle with the invaders.

But here are some things you can you do to help your skin protect you.

  1. Hygiene. Washing your hands before you eat is a must, of course, but the occasional bath helps, also.   Bacteria, which give you that lovely odor, love dirt, dried oils and sweat.  It helps them flourish.  The skin’s oil is waterproof and needs a detergent, such as soap, to disperse the molecules for easy removal.
  2. Moisture. Some people have drier skin than others, which leads to cracks where bacteria can get in.  Any Vaseline-like product, which holds in the moisture all bodies produce, is helpful.  Try applying it when you’re still damp from a bath.
  3. Care for rashes.  Rashes cause blisters, which break and itch.  Scratching leads to more skin breakage and bacterial contamination.  Keep open wounds clean.  Use soothing ointments, cool compresses, over-the-counter steroid creams, calamine or oral antihistamines (like Benadryl) to control the itching.  Don’t use topical antihistamine products because some people can develop an allergic reaction to them.
  4. Care for cuts.  If you get any break in the skin, wash it with soap and water.  Then protect it with a covering, antibiotic ointment or both.  Keep in mind some people can become allergic to the neomycin part of ointments that contain it like Neosporin and triple antibiotic.
  5. Care for burns.  More on these, along with other treatments for skin injuries, in upcoming posts.

Doctors and business owners: Send customized issues of James Hubbard’s My Family Doctor to your customers or patients. E-mail publisher-at-familydoctormag.com for details.

As with all information on this site, this article cannot replace professional, personal medical advice. Read more here.

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6 Responses to “Doctor’s tips for healthy skin: How to keep bacteria and viruses out”

  1. ocbody.com doc Says:

    Your care for minor cuts is OK as long as the wounds are partial thickness (not all the way through the skin.) Deeper wounds should be seen by a physician and possibly sutured. Excessive contamination should also be a sign that a physician’s visit might be a good idea.

    ocbody.com docs last blog post..Butt Booster News Bust

  2. Sagan Says:

    You can really tell the state of someone’s health by their skin, I think- it shows how much you take care of yourself!

    Sagans last blog post..Product Review: NURU Exercise Anywhere Cards

  3. James Hubbard Says:

    Thanks ocbody. Good points. I write more about wound care on Monday. Please let me know what you think.

    James Hubbards last blog post..How to Help a Loved One: depression, alcoholism, addiction …

  4. James Hubbard Says:

    Sagan, healthy looking skin sure makes you look more healthy.

    James Hubbards last blog post..How to Help a Loved One: depression, alcoholism, addiction …

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