How Summer Affects Skin In Health And In Disease

The skin suffers more in the summer than in the winter, partly because it is more exposed, and partly because it functions in a greater degree.

It is exposed, first, to sun and wind. More surface area is exposed, and it has more enemies in the way of insects and plants in the summer than in the winter.

So far as the extra function which it does in the way of ridding the body of fluid by perspiration and regulating the body temperature in the summer, the skin is the most important organ that we have.

In a few instances, skin diseases are better in the summer than in the winter. This is particularly true of the disease called “ichthyosis,” or scaly skin. Individuals who have this are practically well in the summer time, only to have it recur in the winter.

But one rare skin anomaly makes the victim’s life in the summer an absolute misery. This is a congenital defect in which certain portions of the skin are absent. The patients never sweat, and the skin has a loose appearance as if it did not fit the body, on account of the absence of the elastic layer.

The absence of sweating leads to very serious general disturbances in the summer time, because perspiration regulates our body temperature. These patients, if untreated, would run a temperature as high as 104 or 105, and even die of heat stroke, simply from lack of the cooling effect of evaporation on the surface of the body. They have to be kept in a bath, or else in a place where a hose can be turned on them or pails of water thrown over them, all summer long.

Several similar forms of skin disease occur, and I recently saw a patient demonstrated in the clinic who had run a temperature for which nobody could account. The temperature had been going on for over a year. Tests for the presence of typhoid fever or of undulant fever or tuberculosis were negative. A great many physicians saw the patient, and the final explanation was to prove that there was a defect in the skin which cut down the amount of perspiration and, therefore, the regulation of body temperature.