Winter is the worst time for many eczema sufferers; so, with the cold months coming in fast, let’s have a look at some winter eczema treatments that might help.
Winter Eczema Treatments
Eczema is a strange condition. While it reacts strongly to heat and generally makes its sufferers feel hotter, it can actually flare up less in the warmer months. Winter is the worst time for many eczema sufferers; so, with the cold months coming in fast, let’s have a look at some winter eczema treatments that might help.
If you or your child suffers from eczema, then most likely you will have to deal with flare-ups come the colder months.
Adults who have never suffered from eczema before can also suddenly start to have a problem with it in winter. This article has some great simple tips for everyone.
What is eczema?
Eczema refers to a number of different kinds of skin conditions that are characterized by red, itchy, dry skin. It is a common problem which causes the sufferer’s skin to become inflamed.
The most common form of eczema is atopic dermatitis. Other types include contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema (foot-and-hand eczema), and seborrheic dermatitis (called ‘cradle cap’ in babies).
Eczema usually isn’t a chronic or persistent condition that you suffer from constantly, but one that is characterized by periods where the sufferer is symptom-free, followed by flare-ups.
Some of the most usual symptoms of eczema include:
- Dry and scaling skin
- Redness and inflammation
- Blisters oozing fluid or oil, which dry to form yellowish crusts
- Cracking of the skin
The itching and general discomfort of eczema cause its sufferers to scratch to try to find relief, and this scratching can cause open wounds. The cycle of itching and scratching can prevent the skin from having a chance to heal, and when very bad, can become infected.
Infected skin is characterized by yellow crusts, weeping and oozing, and often an unpleasant smell. If a wound has become infected, then you will need to see a doctor and be prescribed antibiotics to clear this up.
Some people suffer severe symptoms and flare up when triggered by certain allergens or causes in the environment. Some people will suffer from eczema as a long-term chronic problem with ongoing symptoms.
What causes eczema?
Despite its prevalence, there is an awful lot about eczema that medical experts don’t know. It is unclear why exactly it develops, which is why there is no clear prevention or cure at this time.
Doctors believe that a number of different factors combine to cause eczema, including:
- Abnormal immune system functioning
- Irritants in the environment
- Activities that can make your skin more sensitive
- Defects in the skin that allows moisture to escape
It may be that your immune system is not sufficiently formed in the womb for your skin to develop the protective barriers that it will need. Another medical theory is that it develops when your immune system is overactive.
It basically happens because the skin doesn’t have the capacity to moisturize itself the way it should and the dryness and cracking let in germs which make the condition worse.
Why is eczema worse in winter?
Many people look forward to winter and all of the lovely things that come with it. Open fires, snuggling with your loved one, hot chocolates, and fluffy slippers – what’s not to like?
If you suffer from eczema you might dread winter, however, because this is the season when it can cause the most suffering for people.
There are basically three reasons why eczema is worse in winter:
- Dry air – whether it is cold blasts of wind outside or hot dry air inside, winter air dries out your skin even more than it is already, making things much worse.
- Harsh changes in temperature – severe changes in temperature from cold outside to hot, dry indoors can cause flare-ups and make it hard for your skin to adapt.
- Rugging up – covering ourselves up with clothes that don’t breathe, fabrics that aggravate, piles of blankets and more can overheat our systems and make eczema worse.
Heat is one of the main reasons why eczema might flare-up.
Being too rugged up and hot can trigger the condition. The rash itself makes you feel very hot, and people with eczema are better off with fewer layers of clothes and more exposure to cool breeze or fresh air.
People with eczema have naturally thin and dry skin, that doesn’t retain moisture well. Heat and warm, dry air will make matters worse. In winter, being overheated and dried out by central heating, electric blankets and exposure to woolen clothes or blankets all make eczema harder to deal with in the colder months.
Winter Eczema Triggers to watch out for
Make sure that showers and baths aren’t too hot in winter, and don’t soak in them for a very long time. Both the heat and the moisture dry your skin out, which is the worst thing for eczema.
Have shorter, cooler showers and baths, and skip days without bathing as well. Avoid soap products that can also drain your skin of moisture, and instead use products in the bath that replenish moisture, such as coconut oil. Goat’s milk products can also be helpful in the bath. Oatmeal baths are a great way to hold and lock moisture in your skin.
The central heating will overheat you and dry out your skin in winter, but it also stirs up dust and other allergens which also cause flare-ups to happen.
Because these stay constantly hot they don’t allow your body to self-regulate its temperature. These are a huge no-no for people with eczema.
Gloves and other woollen products
Eczema skin needs to be able to breathe, so layering up in winter is not good for it. Wool is a trigger for most people and can cause eczema to flare up, so the usual knitted gloves, hats and scarves are a no go for people with this condition.
If you are wearing gloves to protect your hands, they still need to let your skin breathe and be made of sensitive skin friendly materials, such as cotton or bamboo. Having silk lining in your gloves is another option.
Winter and children and babies
It can be easy to overdress our children and babies in winter – we don’t want them to be cold or get sick!
But for many kids with eczema, their little bodies are running a bit warmer than you are, and they aren’t really that cold. Eczema sufferers are better with less clothing, so it’s a lesson in acceptance for parents to stop trying to add extra jackets, blankets, and socks.
Winter Eczema Treatments that really work
After avoiding triggers and scratching, the next most important rule for living with eczema is to keep moisturized. Eczema sufferers have drier skin than usual, with any moisture you put into your body seemingly escaping instantly. This is because of an imbalance in the topmost layer, the skin barrier, so sufferers need to take some extra steps to boost this skin barrier.
In winter you will need to moisturize even more often, daily at least. You may also want to swap your lighter moisturizer for something thicker and more heavy duty.
You might find it easiest to apply thicker moisturizers at night before bed, and enhance its powers as well as avoiding getting it everywhere by wearing special eczema socks and gloves to bed.
Moisturiser is a regular daily routine that should be kept up to keep skin healthy and eczema at bay. You should continue to moisturize whether you have a flare up or not.
But if you do have a flare-up currently you might also find relief in a topical over-the-counter cream such as hydrocortisone. Topical creams can be put on first after bathing and before you moisturize. If OTC creams aren’t strong enough then you may need to see your doctor for a prescription cream such as steroid ointment.
Wet dressings seem like an archaic form of torture in the winter, but it works! The tiniest of babies are safe and comfortable in head to toe wet dressings in winter, and it takes the sting and inflammation out of the rash and helps the flare-up to calm right down. This sort of treatment provides instant relief from the heat, itch, and inflammation of eczema.
How to apply a wet dressing
- Apply first any topical treatment creams you have been prescribed
- Cover the skin with an oily emollient
- Soak wet cloths or bandages in water and oil that is appropriate for sensitive skin
- Wring the wet bandages out so they aren’t dripping, then wrap them around the affected area and affix them in place
- Wet dressings can be left on until they dry, so for a couple of hours. Once dry they should be removed however because dry dressings can cause irritation
- You can use a wet bandana, hat or singlet instead of bandages on the harder to wrap areas like the head and torso.
Eczema Socks and Gloves
You can buy socks and gloves designed to lock in the moisture and help the cream and treatment you have applied soak directly into your hands and feet, ensuring you get 100% benefit from the cream you’re using.
If you use normal socks the cream or lotion you use will be soaked up into the sock rather than your skin. You might like to try these ones from Codream because:
- They lock in the moisture with non-breathable gel lining and provide an intensive hydration treatment to soften your dry, hard, cracked, and rough skin on your hands and feet.
- These dermatologist-tested gel socks contain Rose Oil, Vitamin E, Jojoba, Olive and Grape Seed Oil.
- The gel lining is designed to speed up and enhance the moisturizing process and help your dry or chapped skin heal much more quickly than it would with lotion or hand cream alone.
Clear the air
The hot dry air indoors is one of your biggest enemies in winter, but there are lots of ways you can improve things.
Buy an air humidifier for the main rooms of your house such as bedrooms and living areas. Use distilled water only in your humidifier, and change the water every few days. Clean the machine every few days as well.
Salt lamps are also a fantastic way to reduce eczema and clear the air, and give off a lovely calming glow which many people find improves their mood as well.
Keep the temperature inside your home fairly even, that is not too hot or too cold. Try to keep humidity around 50%.
If you have an open fire, stay away from the direct path of the smoke (which is generally good advice anyway) as well as direct radiant heat. Eczema sufferers are generally better a little further back from the fire.
We reviewed the best humidifiers for eczema on the market today suitable for all budgets from $50 – $500 click the link to read our findings. You’ll be shocked!
Eczema Diets and supplements
Many sufferers have found they can help prevent eczema by taking a daily supplement containing a natural antihistamine such as quercetin. Other natural antihistamines include eyebright, horseradish and garlic, and gingko.
Drink lots and lots of water in winter to keep your skin hydrated. If you find yourself leaning towards warming drinks in this season like coffee and red wine, you are even more in need of extra hydration, because these drinks actually rob your body of water.
Herbal tea or freshly squeezed juices, especially ones that are rich in vegetables like spinach, carrot and celery, are also great in plentiful amounts in winter. Water-based soups and broths are also good.
Drinking ginger tea every day can help boost your immune system and reduce the effects of eczema, as well as strengthening your skin. Add a spoonful of raw honey for some extra antioxidant power.
Vitamin E can be taken as a supplement or applied topically, as well as makes a great base ingredient for moisturizers or bath oils.
Vitamin D supplements or eating foods that are rich in vitamin D can help, such as cod liver oil, salmon, eggs, and milk. Studies have shown that vitamin D supplements may reduce the symptoms of winter eczema in children. Our Favorite Vitamin D Supplements here.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 supplements and foods help the body in all sorts of ways, one of these being in skincare. Look for wild fish oil tablets or eating oily fish like salmon and tuna.
Taking a probiotic supplement may also reduce the incidences of a flare-up. There is also some evidence that taking a probiotic during pregnancy can also reduce the likelihood of your baby suffering from eczema.
Quick Tips for Winter Eczema Treatments
Wear fewer clothes, or wear layers to make it easier to adjust what you are wearing when you become overheated. With children, it is always better to dress them in less than you think is needed.
Keep central heating as low as possible.
Get out in the fresh air and cool breeze during the winter months as these things are wonderful for your skin.
Don’t use electric blankets. Don’t use woollen blankets either or lay babies and children on sheepskin rugs. Cotton blankets are the best and can more easily be layered on and off as needed.
When bathing, don’t use very hot water, and also don’t soak in the tub for a long time.
Keep your house clean and vacuumed from dust and pet hair. When dusting use a damp cloth to gather the dust and not just stir it up into the air.
Moisturize every day, even two to three times a day, to keep eczema at bay.
No matter where you live and what time of year it is, you need to react to your weather conditions quickly and change your daily routine if needed.
I can personally count down the days until I need to start thinking about the cold weather and how it will affect my skin. It can affect not only my skin but my mood as well and when you start to feel down and even depressed your eczema can start to take over and you lose control. I find it really hard with my hands, my fingertips crack and hurt really bad.
I’ve included a link to a blog I wrote about my personal struggle with my hands Click here to read.
We hope we have given you some help to avoid your eczema getting out of control through the cold winter months. Please feel free to share your experiences and help others by sharing any tips you have.
Thanks for reading and please share with others to help raise awareness for eczema treatments.
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