Winter Eczema Survival Guide

Montreal in winter

While frosty months have us enjoying hot cocoa and roaring fires, there’s another wintry tradition that is far less fun: eczema.

Icy temps often kickstart this common condition that affects 30 million American children and adults – a number that has tripled over the past 30 years. Eczema is marked by inflamed red plaques that itch incessantly, and is a medical condition that goes beyond more than just a side effect of dry skin.

With eczema, the skin allows essential water to escape, allowing pollen, dust mites and bacteria to enter. The resulting dry patches then feel itchy, launching an endless cycle of scratching that can worsen instead of relieve symptoms.

The dry, scaly patches that are the hallmark of eczema can appear virtually anywhere, though the scalp, face, and skin flexes (like the inside of the elbow) are common culprits. Many people aren’t aware that tough blisters that form around nailbeds can also be eczema

In addition to prevalent triggers like cold, dry air and times of stress, products you apply to your skin – especially fragrances – can inadvertently aggravate the problem.

People who experience eczema on their hands are advised to wear cotton-lined, waterproof gloves when washing dishes or handling irritating substances. Sweat can also bring on an attack, so it’s best to shower soon after working out. And as with most things in life, stress has been shown to both trigger and worsen symptoms.

Some allergists believe that eliminating eggs, dairy products and nuts may facilitate relief for some sufferers. Taking essential fatty acid supplements like omega-3s daily can also help.

When the going gets itchy, many sufferers try to treat symptoms by piling on the lotion. While intercepting the rash with moisturizer the moment you feel it coming on can help quash the onset, not even the most hydrating routine can push some flares into remission. A prescription steroid might be necessary to resolve the underlying inflammation to ultimately end the cycle. So seek the expertise of a board-certified dermatologist if eczema is an ongoing issue for you. Fortunately, there are also some OTC products out there formulated to prevent and ease eczema symptoms. Just remember to moisturize often to feel most comfortable this winter and prevent another round from beginning.

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