As a doctor, I have trained to serve my fellow human beings. There have been few experiences that have touched me as much as volunteering on a mission trip with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS). As a dermatologist, I knew my services were needed. These refugees did not have the luxury of getting basic medical treatment, let alone specialized dermatologic treatment. Many were children. The setup was very basic, and we had to improvise. My friend, Dr. Sarah Ferrer, and I prepared many samples, lotions, creams and medications to take with us. We worked with the SAMS team in Jordan to be able to bring local medications to this vulnerable population.
The refugee camps Zaatari and Al-Azraq were the areas where we saw the most patients. We alternated locations to increase our coverage. We were also lucky to have local medical students and pharmacy students to help scribe, distribute medications, and translate. We could not have done it without them! Above is a picture of the very basic clinic. I had to be the doctor and the pharmacist. Our medication supplies were limited, but the demand for our services was unlimited. One of the most painful moments was telling someone with a bad skin disorder (like psoriasis or severe acne) that I did not have enough medication to help. I did what I could and treated them with compassion and respect. Many of them waited for hours and sometimes the whole day for a few minutes of my time and a tube of medication. At times, we had to turn people away after running out of time. I really tried my best to see everyone, and on the days we were able to do so, I felt euphoric!
In some patients’ eyes I saw hope, but in eyes of others I saw despair and hopelessness. Rafif, a five year old eczema patient I treated (picture above), was so happy. She mentioned, “I hope to become a dermatologist like my kind doctor, who treated me today. I want to thank him for taking care of me and being so kind to me.” She is a refugee at Al-Azraq camp. It’s moments like these that give me hope. I am happy and hopeful that Rafif will be able to carry the torch and treat patients one day.
In the end, I know my trip was just a drop in the bucket. I hope it was drop that made a small difference.
Is your wound infected?
It is important to monitor your wound for infection as you take care of it on a daily basis. If your wound changes in appearance, this does not necessary mean it is infected. While working in a surgical practice, we have noticed some common concerns that our patients have about their wounds. While some of these complaints can be serious, others are easily preventable by avoiding some common mistakes. These include:
1. Too much or too little ointment
2. Irritation around the wound due to harsh adhesives or large bandages.
3. Using your own products on open wounds
4. "My wounds need fresh air"
5. Hydrogen peroxide
6. Wash your hands!
Let’s be honest: a child’s main concern is fun. Most kids want to run around outside in the sun all day without a care in the world. So, it can be difficult to explain to them why they need to be careful when having all that fun. Here are some helpful tips for talking to your children about sun safety in a way they can understand.
How is the sun helpful to our bodies?
The sun gives your body vitamin D, which helps you absorb calcium to keep your bones strong. It does this by sending ultraviolet rays, or UV rays, to Earth. These UV rays are absorbed by your skin. But, if your skin is exposed to too many UV rays, you get a sunburn!
What is a sunburn?
Your skin has a chemical in it called melanin. This chemical helps your skin absorb the UV rays from the sun. When your skin is exposed to too many UV rays, the melanin cannot absorb them all and this causes a sunburn. People with lighter skin usually burn faster because they have less melanin, but even people with darker skin can get a sunburn.
Why is a sunburn bad?
Besides the fact that a sunburn hurts, there are many reasons to avoid getting a sunburn. Really bad sunburns can blister and if these blisters pop, you can get an infection. Sunburns can also cause wrinkles when you’re an adult and can potentially lead to skin cancer, which is very serious!
How do I keep from getting a sunburn?
There are a few important things you can do to help prevent a sunburn:
What about my infant?
Sunscreen should not be used on infants under six months old, as their skin is less mature and can absorb more of the chemicals in the sunscreen. To keep your infant safe in the sun, follow these simple recommendations:
Remind your kids the sun isn’t a bad thing, you just have to be careful!
As a dermatologist, I can tell you that almost everyone I have run across has had a skin issue. Some less serious such as a poison ivy rash that has resolved or an allergy to a cream that was transient. Some are more serious like melanoma, a very dangerous type of skin cancer that can travel across the body and in some cases cause death. Some disorders can have a range of severity such as psoriasis. It can be a few patches but it can also cover most of the skin surface. Psoriasis, like other skin disorders, can affect other parts of the patient, such as their heart. It can put the patient at increased risk of heart attack and stroke when compared to the general population. It can affect joints too and cause arthritis and joint destruction. There are over 300 diseases that dermatologists are trained to treat. They are experts at recognizing these skin disease patterns, diagnosing them accurately. Dermatologists usually tend to be very busy and are in high demand so I would recommend having an established dermatologist in the event you have:
Also if you are at a higher risk of skin cancer due to your profession or pastime (farming, golfing, sailing, etc) or your accumulated skin damage then it would be a great idea to establish regular skin checks with your dermatologist. That way you are proactive and catching the problem, if one appears, very early. You can catch a pre-cancer before it becomes cancer. When caught early, skin cancers are very treatable and require less aggressive treatments. So while you may not need a dermatologist now, chances are you may need one in the future.
As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” (That's Benjamin Franklin for all you history buffs!)
Photo credit: Coline Haslé
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