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Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago: LIFE Center

Skin Care Overview

Reviewed August 2012
Author: Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago - Nursing Practice Council

The skin is an important part of the body that works in many ways to maintain health:

  • Protects from outside injury or illness;
  • Prevents germs from entering the body;
  • Keeps fluids and nutrients inside the body;
  • Helps to control body temperature in hot and cold weather.

Skin is several layers of tissue. Some tissues are filled with tiny blood vessels that move oxygen and nutrients to the skin. The skin also has nerves, which send messages from different parts of the body to the brain about touch, pain, and temperature. Other nerves give information about where the body and body parts (arms, legs) are positioned in space and whether you are lying on an object.

Keeping Skin Healthy

Healthy skin is intact, well lubricated with natural oils and nourished by a good blood supply. Here are a few ideas for keeping the skin healthy:

Hygiene

  • Keep skin clean, dry and intact. Skin that is wet from urine, sweat or stool is more likely to break down.
  • Dry off well after bathing, but do not rub hard with a towel. Rubbing can hurt the skin.
  • Do not bathe everyday unless it is really needed. Daily baths wash away natural oils that lubricate the skin.
  • Do not use alcohol for massaging bony areas of the body. Alcohol dries skin. If a back rub helps you to relax, use lotion or oil instead.
  • Use a moisturizer for excessive skin dryness. Do not moisturize between toes; use baby powder if desired instead.

Nutrition

  • Eat a balanced diet including plenty of fruits, vegetables and protein. A nutrition professional can answer questions and help you plan a good diet.
  • Drink 6 8 glasses of fluid every day.
  • Remember that pureed or chopped foods have nutritional value. Tube feeding formulas provide all necessary nutrients for healthy skin.

Skin Inspection

  • Check skin at least twice a day morning and evening - and more often if you are increasing sitting or turning times. It should be done when you change position.
  • Look for sores, blisters, rashes or skin color changes when they are just starting.
  • If you need help with skin inspection, clearly explain what someone should be looking for.
  • Remember to check entire body, especially bony areas.
  • Checking Bony Areas for Pressure Sores
  • Use a long handled mirror to help check backs of legs, buttocks and back.
  • Be alert to areas that have been injured and healed. Scar tissue breaks very easily.
  • Look for red areas, blisters, openings in the skin or rashes.
  • Check groin area. Men who wear an external catheter should check penis for sores or other problems.



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