Tips: Minimizing Winter Eczema Flare Ups
Eczema refers to a group of skin conditions that lead to red, inflamed or itchy skin. Eczema looks similar to a rash, but is not an allergic reaction. There are seven types of eczema, of which atopic dermatitis is the most common. Eczema is a chronic condition with no cure, although it can go into remission for long periods allowing sufferers to be symptom-free.
During the winter season, however, eczema symptom recurrences are more common due to dry weather conditions. Many people with eczema will experience more and intense eczema flare ups during Winter than in other seasons. Fortunately, there are some simple tips that minimize winter eczema flare ups.
Eczema typically appears in early childhood, although adults do experience first-time occurrences. Eczema is caused by an overactive immune system, but genetics also play a large role. If someone in your family has eczema, you’re more likely to have it too.
The seven types of eczema include the following:
- atopic dermatitis
- contact dermatitis
- dyshidrotic eczema
- nummular eczema
- seborrheic dermatitis
- stasis dermatitis
Contrary to what some people believe, eczema is not contagious. Currently there is no cure, although flare ups can be minimized if you understand what causes them.
What Is an Eczema Flare Up?
Eczema can range from mild to severe. Some experience mild inflammation and redness, while others may experience dry, scaly skin and severe itchiness. Eczema may also appear in different areas of the body at different times.
Common eczema symptoms include the following:
- Inflamed or swollen areas of skin
- Redness or discoloration
- Mild to severe itch
- Patches of dry skin
- Patches of rough or leathery skin
- Patches of scaly or chapped skin
- Small bumps that ooze and may scab over
Often these symptoms manifest as a “flare up”, where symptoms rapidly return. Flareups often occur one eczema is triggered by the skin being exposed to specific substances or conditions that cause eczema symptoms to occur or worsen in intensity.
Why Winter Often Makes Eczema Worse
Eczema flare-ups are more common during the cold, winter months primarily because the air is very dry. When skin cannot hold moisture, eczema is more likely to reoccur. Drastic temperature changes, exposure to cold air, scratchy winter clothing or wet gloves and boots can all irritate skin, causing a reaction.
While eczema is not an allergy, spending more time indoors exposed to allergens can also trigger flare ups.
Tips for Minimizing Winter Eczema Flare Ups
Knowing what triggers your eczema can help you avoid outbreaks. During the winter months, the following tips can help minimize eczema recurrence.
- Protect Your Skin from Cold Weather: Reduce exposure to the cold by wearing clothing that protects your face, neck and hands as well as your body.
- Avoid Itchy Winter Wear: Choose soft, silky fabrics over itchy knits like wool to reduce irritation.
- Wear Layers to Avoid Sweating: Dress in removable layers to avoid getting too hot and minimize sweating.
- Remove Wet Clothing Immediately: Do your best to keep hands and feet dry. When necessary, remove wet clothing immediately.
- Keep Showers Warm, Not Hot: When cold, avoid the abrupt temperature change that comes from contact with hot water. The same goes for washing your hands.
- Use a Humidifier: Set up humidifiers in your home and office to keep moisture in the air, and in your skin.
- Moisturize Consistently: Establish a consistent moisturizing routine. Consider switching to a thicker moisturizer during the dry winter months.
- Stay Hydrated: Moisturize skin from the inside out by drinking plenty of water or warm decaf tea.
- Get Plenty of Vitamin D: You typically get Vitamin D from sun exposure. If you’re staying bundled up for winter, consider taking a Vitamin D supplement.
- Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Processed foods, refined carbohydrates and foods high in sugar can lead to an inflammatory response. Limiting these foods may help limit eczema breakouts.
In addition to the above, continue with your doctor’s recommended skin care routine, or any over-the-counter or prescription meditation you’ve been taking for your eczema. Homeopathic relief options also include the following:
- Massaging skin with sunflower seed oil or coconut oil
- Acupuncture or acupressure treatment
- Probiotics or Vitamin D supplements
Remember, no two cases of eczema are alike. How yours manifests, and what works to control it will be unique to you. If your symptoms fail to improve with the above tips, consider visiting a board certified dermatologist.