Northeastern winters aren’t just bitter cold and endless shoveling. Winter can also bring out the worst in your eczema, but knowing how to prepare your skin for seasonal changes will help keep you comfortable all year long.
Eczema and dermatitis are terms that are often used together, but they mean slightly different things. Dermatitis essentially describes the symptoms on the skin, while eczema describes the overarching skin condition that can cause dermatitis.
Dermatitis can be caused by a number of environmental factors, but when the symptom is chronic it becomes eczema. Eczema often appears in flare ups—bouts of dermatitis that affect one or more patches of skin for an indeterminate amount of time. Eczema flare ups of dermatitis are often characterized by red and inflamed skin that often blisters and/or becomes scaly.
One thing everyone notices about winter is the dryness. Even in less cold areas of the world, humidity declines in winter time. This is certainly the case in New England where no amount of snow gives the air much in the way of moisture. Since a key trigger of eczema is dryness, and the air around us in winter can literally pull moisture from our skin, eczema becomes worse in winter.
Using a humidifier, while not scientifically proven to aid in combating eczema, is recommended. The concept is straightforward: when you’ve got the heat going in your home the air grows even more dry, and running a humidifier balances out or overpowers the dry air. Your skin may even absorb moisture, but when you use a humidifier you won’t be losing it to the arid air of your home or office.
In the winter, our bodies produce less Vitamin D, which is crucial for many bodily functions. Studies have shown that Vitamin D can ease the symptoms of eczema. The best way to get more Vitamin D in the winter is with supplements. These vitamins can be bought over the counter or prescribed. The body naturally produces Vitamin D as it processes sunlight – and with the shorter winter days, there is much less sunlight to go around. While Vitamin D won’t cure your eczema, getting your levels back to normal will certainly help.
Please note that if you do decide to try the sunlight approach to improving your Vitamin D, you still need to wear sunscreen. The sun is further away from Earth in the winter, but it can still case sunburns. A sunburn can cause an eczema flare up.
Eczema symptoms are brought on by dryness, so keeping your skin moisturized is the best way to avoid a flare up. Winter air doesn’t make that easy, so in addition to humidifiers and vitamin supplements, keep applying that moisturizer! You may need to get prescription strength moisturizers for the winter time, even if over the counter products work the rest of the year.
Temperature changes, even subtle but sudden ones, can cause skin to become itchy and contribute to an eczema flare up. While winter makes these changes unavoidable, there are easy steps to keep these issues to a minimum. If you have drafty rooms in your house, take steps to insulate them better, or divert heat to keep it consistent. These temperature changes throughout your home can cause eczema flare ups. Layering your clothes and bedding will keep your skin safe from rapid temperature changes as well.
Winter doesn’t have to be a struggle with eczema. Keep these tips in mind as the temperatures drop. Schedule a consultation with Northeast Dermatology Associates today and make sure you have all the tools to handle your eczema this winter.