Surviving Desert Weather: Our Dry Climate and Your Health

boy dry eyes

AS SEEN ON TV: As northern Nevadans, we know our dry weather well, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune to its impacts on our health. KTVN Channel 2 News interviewed a Renown expert to find out what you need to know to survive (comfortably) in the high desert.

Dry skin, dry eyes and dry nose. If you call northern Nevada home, you’re probably no stranger to these symptoms.

“We get a lot of questions from people wanting to know, ‘what can I do to prevent things from happening from the dry air?’” says Stephanie Stutz, DO, a Renown Medical Group doctor who specializes in family medicine. “We do have a dry climate here, obviously in the summertime it is much boy dry eyes smallmore evident than in the winter, so we look at things like dry skin, dry eyes and dry nose.”

Keeping Your Symptoms at Bay

Fortunately, there are some easy things you can do to alleviate your discomfort.

  • Dry skin: “For dry skin, we want people to use a lotion that doesn’t have any perfumes so it won’t increase the potential for drying out,” Dr. Stutz says. One home remedy for extremely dry skin or elderly people with thinner skin is cocoa butter. “It’s thicker so it goes under the skin and takes more time to absorb. As a result, you get a much more long-lasting effect.” Dr. Stutz says you can also add lavender essential oil to your cocoa butter to help you sleep at night.
  • Dry and itchy eyes: “Use eye drops on a regular basis and keep them with you. I recommend people have a couple of bottles – one at home and one in their bag,” Dr. Stutz says.
  • Dry nose: “For your nose, one of the best things to use is just a nasal wash,” she says. “You can get it over the counter; it’s a saline nasal wash. Use it a couple of times each day and it can be extremely beneficial. It can actually get up into the sinuses and clear the sinuses of any pollen or residue that’s in there.”

In our dry climate, you may also notice more allergies and nosebleeds. “The dry air can make your allergies much worse,” says Dr. Stutz. “It can create much more irritation, pain and pressure, particularly in the nose and sinuses.” Again, Dr. Stutz recommends using a nasal wash to eliminate that discomfort.

Using a nasal wash two to three times a day can also help prevent nosebleeds. “And if you’re someone who has severe or chronic nosebleeds, you can put a little bit of Vaseline along the inside of your nose to create a moisture barrier,” she adds.

In addition to allergy and nosebleed sufferers, people on certain medications may be at greater risk for symptoms in our dry climate. “The medications you are on can make you much more susceptible to drying out and becoming slightly dehydrated,” Dr. Stutz says. Discuss any medications with your doctor and see if you can space them out over the course of the day or look at changing the dosage.

Should I Get a Humidifier?

Given our year-round dry climate, you may be inclined to purchase a humidifier to help ease your symptoms. But there are some things you should know first.

“You have to be careful with humidifiers as there are pros and cons,” says Dr. Stutz. “The small tabletop humidifiers are not beneficial. You need to get one that covers a huge amount of square footage and holds approximately 10 to 30 gallons of water to help your home. And remember, if you’re not maintaining it on a regular basis, it will hold on to mold and other allergens. So next time you turn it on, you’re actually putting that back into the air.”

Do I Need to Go to the Doctor?

As with anything, it’s important to know yourself and your family. If this is something you experience each year, you can try over-the-counter medications. “But remember, there’s always the caution if you’re on prescription medications,” Dr. Stutz says. “If you are on chronic prescriptions, you should come in to get evaluated just to make sure you’re not getting anything that is going to interfere with those medications.”

Not Just a Summer Problem

As the temperatures cool off, remember this isn’t just a seasonal issue here in the Truckee Meadows. During the winter months, our dry climate combined with cold temperatures and heaters can still lead to dry skin, aggravated sinuses and even itchy eyes. So keep these tips handy all year round.