What can I do to prevent chapped lips?

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Q: Why are my lips so chapped and what can I do about it?

A: Ah winter, that time of year when the freezing wind whips past your face and dries out your skin. Lips have a very thin layer of skin compared to the rest of the face, so they are especially susceptible to drying out in the cold wind and low humidity of winter. Add to that your natural tendency to lick your lips to rewet them, and you’ve set yourself up for dry, cracked and painful lips.

So what can you do to prevent and/or treat your chapped winter lips? Keep ‘em covered!  Balms and ointments containing petrolatum or beeswax are the best for sealing in moisture and creating a barrier between your skin and the elements, although if you have acne you might want to look for petrolatum-free products as these are less likely to cause blackheads and breakouts.  Try to look for one with some SPF protection as well, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors. You can get burnt even when it’s cloudy!  In general, ingredients such as eucalyptus, menthol, and camphor tend to be irritating so try to stay away from them.

Make sure to apply treatment before you go out into the cold and especially before going to bed, as many of us tend to sleep with our mouths open, which leads to lips drying out. You may also want to consider investing in a humidifier to use during the winter, when the heater tends to dry out the air indoors. Also, make sure you drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.  If you’re doing all of the above and still have trouble with chapped lips, take a look at your cosmetics and skin care products – sometimes, the ingredients can cause an allergic reaction that irritates your lips.

There are some common lip ailments that may be confused with chapping, the most common of which are cold sores and angular cheilitis.  Cold sores are caused by a herpes virus and may be improved with oral antiviral medications.  Angular cheilitis is a painful inflammation of the corners the mouth.  It can be caused by Vitamin B deficiency, mechanical irritation or a fungal infection.  It is treated by correcting the underlying cause and/or antifungal medication.

If you have persistently chapped or irritated lips that do not improve with the simple steps listed above, make an appointment at Student Health Services – we are always happy to see you!

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University


photo: portlandmainedentist.com 

Why You Eat More Than You Think

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Is this your day?  Overslept for 9 AM class; jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes, brushed teeth and ran out the door to class.  Sat in class until 10:18 and ran to next class at 10:30.  Had a break from 1:00 until 1:30.  Grabbed lunch to go at Market Place.  Wanted to get the salad but had to take it to class so picked the Tuna melt, bag of chips and a diet pop (tuna is healthy, right!).  Ate lunch in class, which ended at 2:30.  Ran home to change- had to be at work at Buffalo Wild Wings by 5PM.  Worked from 5 until 11:00PM. At work, scarfed down some wings and fries and sipped on diet coke throughout the night.  Got home at 11:30, exhausted and starving and too hyped up to go to bed.  Relaxed on the couch with laptop (Facebook, emails). Scoured the refrigerator and found a yogurt.  Ate that first since it’s healthy and you’re trying to lose some of the 20 pounds you have gained in the past year.  Spied the leftover pasta from Noodles and Co. and finished it off while watching the episode of Lost you had taped but it’s OK since you haven’t eaten much all day. Went to bed at 2AM.

This type of routine is not an untypical schedule for many OSU students.  We have become the “Masters of Multi-tasking”, because there is always too much to do.  Unfortunately, this does not always serve us well when it comes to our relationship with food.  Often we are not “in the moment” with our food (or with many other things as well).  This lack of mindfulness prevents us from being aware of our body’s natural signals for hunger and fullness.  It is important to realize that we all came into world normal, intuitive eaters.  Babies are experts at eating; they cry when they’re hungry and they stop eating when they’re full.  They eat exactly what they need to grow and be healthy.  They do not count carbs, protein, fat or calories.  They just eat!

Our body’s natural systems would continue to manage our eating and meet our body’s needs if modern society did not mess with them.  Arbitrary schedules are set up that interfere with intuitive eating and we are constantly bombarded with external versus internal food cues. No wonder we “mess up.”

So what is “Mindful Eating” and how can you re-learn this healthy approach to eating?  Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention to how, what, where and when you eat in a non-judgmental way.  It is using all of your senses – seeing, hearing, tasting and feeling – when you eat.  I call it “yoga with food” – it requires eating without distractions (no TV, Computer, work, studying) in a calm environment, and it requires practice. 

Here are some guidelines to help you implement mindful eating in your life and some web sites with good information that will start you on the path to more natural, intuitive eating.

  • Make eating consistently a priority and give yourself permission to eat. Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking and pay attention to hunger cues-usually about every four hours.
  • Keep a food intake diary for a week noting what, where, and when you eat and how you feel when eating.
  • Eat sitting down without distractions, preferably in a calm environment.
  • Turn off the television, computer, or other distracting electronic devices. Music is fine.
  • Eat at a table if possible-not on the couch, easy chair, car or bed.
  • Try not to work or study while eating
  • Slow down! Practice putting down your fork or sandwich between bites. Time a typical meal and add 5 minutes the next time you eat. Enjoy the texture and flavor of the food. Pay attention to your body’s signal of fullness or satiety.
  • Eat when you feel comfortably hungry (not starved) and stop when you are comfortably full (not stuffed).
  • Be aware of emotional triggers for eating-a “craving” is often the result of emotional need.

Remember, food is not the enemy!  There is no such thing as perfect eating, but eating mindfully will make it more pleasurable and satisfying.

If you would like to discuss mindful eating, or any other nutritional questions you may have, call to make an appointment with the Student Health Center’s Registered Dieticians.

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Center For Mindful Eating

“Mindless Eating”

“Eating mindfully”