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Mom, I Want to Play in the Water Too

Posted July. 25, 2005 03:04,   


Sweat is the greatest enemy of patients suffering from summer time atopic dermatitis. Due to perspiration, the activities of germs in the skin will increase hence worsening the inflammation.

Playing in the water is a good way to cool off. However, playing in the water might also worsen the condition of atopic dermatitis. Therefore, patients suffering atopic dermatitis have a dilemma whether or not to play in the water.

What Type of Water is Good?—

Actually the type of water doesn’t matter. Atopy is an allergic disorder. If there are no problems after going to a swimming pool or the sea, it means there is nothing to cause an allergic reaction. So it is fine to keep going.

The problem is the quality of water. Atopy patients are sensitive to skin irritation and easily susceptible to bacterial infection. Even if there are no allergy-causing substances, if the water quality is bad then obviously the symptoms will also worsen.

Many people use swimming pools at the same time, so they can be quite contaminated. Chlorine as a disinfectant is no problem to the skin of healthy people, but might cause inflammations for atopic patients.

There is no medical grounds whether salt is good or bad for atopic skin. If it stings when in sea water, it is not due to salt, but because of atopic wounds in the body. Keep your time in the sea short.

Valley water is always flowing and the water temperature is relative low, so it is suitable for atopic patients. However, if it is contaminated, it will be even worse than pool water.

How to Treat Atopic Skin—

Ultraviolet rays are also a great threat to atopic patients. Patients should apply ultraviolet ray block 30 minutes before going out.

It is suggested to use sun screen products free of PABAs (para-aminobenzoic acid). PABA is a substance that causes skin allergy. Often patients with atopic dermatitis are also allergic to PABA. Perfume might also worsen atopy so it is advised to use scent-free products. Another way is to have your doctor recommend a product that suits you.

If possible, the best way is to play in the water after 4:00 p.m. when the UV rays lose its intensity.

Playing too much in the water will be a burden on your body. If this is the case, your body will be more sensitive to irritation and might itch worse. Do not spend more than 30 minutes in the water, and take regular breaks in the shade.

Washing off with clean water after being in water is basic to treating atopic skin. It is advised to use antibacterial or atopic soap rather than average soap. After washing, apply skin moisturizer, and don’t forget that it is effective to apply it before the skin dries.

(Written with the assistance of Hanyang University Dermatology Professor Roh Young-seok and Seoul Samsung Hospital Pediatric Professor Ahn Kang-mo.)

Sang-Hoon Kim corekim@donga.com