5 Quick Tips for Fighting Eczema this Winter

Northwestern Medicine
Dermatology February 07, 2014
Woman washing her faceWinter can be a difficult season to deal with for a multitude of reasons, one of which for many is eczema. Plummeting temperatures, such as those caused by the recent visits from the “polar vortex,” and increased exposure to dry air can be strong triggers for an eczema flare-up.

“There is often a strong interaction between the outside world and our skin,” said Jonathan Silverberg, MD, dermatologist at Northwestern Medicine®. “Extreme conditions and temperatures can cause eczema to occur, even for someone who has never experienced an episode before.”

But according to Silverberg, there are ways to help deal with eczema in the winter months that can make a big difference:

1) Prevent creating an overly dry atmosphere indoors by using less heat.

“Dry air is a leading trigger for eczema outbreaks and can cause eczema to last longer and become much more irritated. What a lot of people don’t know is that the air is almost always more dry indoors when it is cool outside due to the constant use of indoor heating to stay warm. While no one should turn their heat off in the winter, turning down the thermostat a few degrees can make a difference because the air will be heated less frequently and will lose less moisture as a result.”

2) Increase the amount of moisture indoors by using a humidifier, or opening a window for a short time.

“Using a humidifier at home is a method that many dermatologists recommend to combat dry heated air. It is also possible to increase the amount of moisture in the air by opening a window an inch or two for a short period of time. Opening a window for even just a few minutes allows naturally moist fresh air outside to mix with the warmer drier air inside, and raise a room’s humidity.”

3) Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize... especially after washing.

“Winter makes moisturizing a must to prevent our skin from getting dried-out. The best time to apply moisturizer is after a shower or bath. Our skin absorbs water when we bathe, but the water quickly evaporates, so we lose that extra moisture and our skin becomes even drier. To help keep the moisture in, it is best to use cooler water in the winter and apply moisturizer right after drying off to prevent our skin from drying out.”

4) Avoid moisturizing products with ingredients that could make things worse.

“While moisturizing is important for keeping skin healthy, it is just as important to make sure you are using moisturizer that is safe and effective. Avoid using moisturizing products that contain ingredients that may be irritating, such as alcohol and menthol, any that are heavily fragrant. Products that use antibiotics should also be avoided in most cases unless someone is advised otherwise by their doctor. Some topical antibiotics can cause allergic reactions and have the potential to make eczema worse. Petroleum jelly and ointments are generally the most effective moisturizers.”

5) Sooth your eczema with cold instead of scratching.

“Scratching skin affected by eczema may feel temporally satisfying, but it often creates breaks in the skin and actually causes more itch and noticeably thicker plaques of eczema. But the itch caused by eczema can easily be soothed by cooling the skin’s surface with something from the freezer like an icepack or even a bag of frozen vegetables. Avoiding scratching can be extremely difficult for children, especially for those who find applying moisturizer to be uncomfortable. Keeping a bottle of moisturizer or topical medication cooled in a refrigerator, is an efficient way to both sooth and treat eczema at the same time.

To find out more about treating eczema, visit our website or call 877.926.4664.

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