For those of us with eczema, the winter months can be brutal. Colder weather combined with exposure to dry indoor heating systems can cause flare ups all winter long. Here are some ways you can keep your eczema under control this season.
You may have heard the terms eczema or dermatitis, which are often used interchangeably. Eczema actually is atopic dermatitis, the condition causing a scaly, often itchy red rash on the surface of the skin. This condition goes beyond the typical dry skin that many people experience during colder months or in dry climates.
A couple of factors combine to create the perfect storm during winter months, causing dermatitis flare ups. For one, the outdoor air is dry and chilly. Additionally, heating systems further dry out the indoor air. In order to keep warm, many people increase their shower or bath time or turn up the water temperature, put extra coverings on their bed, or wear more layers. All of these elements can irritate any type of skin, but tend to wreak the most havoc for eczema sufferers. If the skin can’t stay hydrated on its own, dermatitis often ensues.
There are many different types of eczema (or dermatitis) and depending on which type you have, symptoms may manifest differently. Acute dermatitis is caused by contact with an allergen of some type, and usually the patches of affected skin are thicker, darker, and itchier than the surrounding skin.
Chronic dermatitis, or atopic eczema, causes a red, scaly, blistering rash on the skin. Usually, atopic eczema is hereditary and often shows up from childhood. Flare ups can be aggravated by stress, which interferes with the suppression of a healthy immune response. Seborrheic dermatitis appears in people with a reduced resistance to the yeast Pityrosporum ovale.
In addition to the elements, eczema can be aggravated by exposure to irritants like latex, perfumed soaps or detergents, or harsh chemicals. Some people are unable to wear certain types of fabrics such as wool, polyester, or nylon without experiencing a flare up of their condition.
When considering dermatitis treatments, it’s important to see a professional, especially if you’re unsure about your skin condition. A dermatologist can properly diagnose a case of eczema and discuss dermatitis treatment options. In some cases, an eczema cream might be prescribed. These topical steroid creams help with redness and inflammation and can soothe the accompanying itch. There are also non-steroidal eczema cream options including tacrolimus (Protopic®), Pimecrolimus (Elidel®) and Eucrisa®, as well as oral antihistamines.
Lifestyle changes, especially during the winter months, can help reduce flare ups as well. Limiting bath and shower time to 5-10 minutes and using lukewarm water instead of hot can help. Only use gentle, fragrance-free soaps and detergents, and be sure to wear gloves while cleaning with chemicals. You might consider adding a humidifier in the bedroom to keep skin hydrated while you sleep. And if your eczema is irritated by certain fabrics, stick to cotton, silk, or bamboo clothing and sheets.
The board-certified experts at Vanguard Dermatology have treated thousands of patients with eczema. If you’re in the greater New York City area and your dermatitis is exacerbated by winter weather, don’t wait. Give us a call today to set up an appointment and get the help you need.