Magazine article USA TODAY

New Index Measures Winter's Relative Humidity

Magazine article USA TODAY

New Index Measures Winter's Relative Humidity

Article excerpt

Dermatologists, toxicologists, and a weather expert from the University of Delaware. Newark, have teamed up to create the first scientifically calculated index of conditions that create dry, itchy winter skin. By checking what the index is in their area, people can take proper precautions to avoid the pain and itch of severe dry skin when it is high.

"When relative humidity inside drops to particularly low levels, dry, itchy skin problems often result," points out Laurence Kalkstein, professor of geography at the university's Center for Climatic Research. "The new index calculates the relative humidity inside the typical heated home by using meteorological information from outside. Atmospheric moisture content is relatively equal inside and outside the house during the winter, but because the house is heated, relative humidity is much lower inside." These conditions create the perfect environment for dry. chapped, cracked, red, itchy skin -- particularly in young children, the elderly, and individuals with hypersensitive skin -- according to dermatologist James J. Leyden of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

"It is not uncommon for indoor relative humidity to drop below 20%, especially during cold weather," notes Stephen C. Pennisi, director of product safety and scientific support at Combe Inc., makers of Lanacane Anti-Itch Cream Medication products. "In fact, depending on the type of heating system people have, it's possible to have indoor humidity falling below 10%. …

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