There are many reasons why you or your child may experience itchy skin. The most common reason, especially in winter, is eczema. Eczema is a skin condition that causes red, inflamed skin that eventually becomes very dry. Children are the most diagnosed with eczema, but it can occur in adults as well. Eczema flare-ups are common in winter due to the air being dry. Cold and dry weather in the winter pulls the natural moisture away from your skin.
Another reason is that people tend to take many showers and baths in the winter, which further dries out the skin causing more itching, and worsening eczema flare-ups. People often find that eczema or atopic dermatitis during our Colorado winters gets really bad on exposed skin including the hands and face. This is because cold and dry weather can irritate the skin. People who also bathe or shower in very hot water can make symptoms of eczema develop or even worsen.
While no documented treatment options totally eradicate eczema or itchy skin, there are many doctor-approved ways in which you can deal with flare-ups to reduce the irritation. Below are some helpful tips which reduce the occurrence of outbreaks and irritation associated with eczema.
Tips To Help with Eczema Flare-Ups
Using a thick or heavy moisturizer during the winter months is a vital skin care routine for relieving eczema. This allows moisture to lock in while repairing the skin barrier, which is important because irritated and cracked skin exposes itself to more irritants and allergens. Hence, to protect your skin against the harsh dry air of winter, take a moisturizer along with you as you go about your day, applying when needed.
Oil-based creams and other oils are beneficial as well. Given the saturated market, it’s best to purchase only products approved by the National Eczema Association.
Use Gentle Soap
Skin that is affected by eczema is pretty sensitive. Thus, one needs to avoid soaps that contain unwanted and harmful ingredients like fragrance, alcohol and dye. Instead, use moisturizing and hypoallergenic soaps. Likewise, homemade soaps should be free from fragrance and be approved by the doctor for use.
In addition to this, natural or unscented laundry detergents are advised to be used especially for baby clothes, as they do not contain harmful ingredients. When washing your hands and face, do so sparingly as washing your face frequently can strip the skin of its natural oil barrier. If you must wash your face, do so with doctor-approved cleansers in order to not damage your skin.
Drink Lots of Water
Staying hydrated during the winter months is also important. So, drinking lots of water is an excellent way to combat eczema flare-ups, among other skin conditions. While there is no proven one-size-fits-all quantity of water to drink per day, it is always best to drink water before you get very thirsty. You can throw in other forms of liquid to the mix too. Drinks like coffee and even hot cocoa can be a great alternative. Also, don’t forget to go green. Eating fruits and vegetables goes a long way in keeping you hydrated.
Add Vitamin D To Your Diet
Vitamin D supplements have been proven to greatly reduce winter-related eczema flare-ups, especially in kids. By taking Vitamin D, eczema symptoms have been shown to improve substantially.
Despite the climate being considerably less hot during the winter, there is still a need to use sunscreen. This protects the skin from sunburn, which can worsen your eczema. Sunscreen with SPF20 and above is highly recommended. However, it’s best to consult a dermatologist to avoid contact dermatitis, leading to bigger skin problems.
Protect Yourself against Rapid Temperature Changes
During significant temperature changes, the skin becomes dry and feels itchy. While one cannot generally prevent these changes, wearing gloves, hats, and scarves can go a long way in protecting your skin from cold weather conditions.
Also, it’s best to avoid excess bed coverings at night as this exacerbates eczema symptoms. Instead, get a house thermostat and put it at a fixed temperature for homeostasis.
For children who cannot communicate the state of their body – hot or cold – take note of any shivering, sweating, or fussiness. Dress them in the same layers of clothing every day and create a regulated temperature for them.
Eczema Friendly Foods
There is a connection between food allergies and eczema that cannot be denied. According to a report in 2017, 81% of people with eczema also have some food allergy. While adults might find it easy to know what they are allergic to, children with eczema can be tricky. So, you’d need to be very attentive to what they eat and how they react to them.
People are often allergic to eggs, soy products, fish, nuts, cow milk, etc. However, some eczema-friendly foods that can reduce atopic dermatitis include those that contain quercetin and fatty fish.
If you are allergic to some food or are not sure if a food is causing eczema flare-ups, talking to a dermatologist can get you on the right track. You can also discuss treatment options with them.
Taking a bath or shower with hot water can dry out your skin, so lukewarm should be used. Even if you live in cold and dry weather, you will want to make sure your showers are not too hot. Also, reduce the number of times you shower to avoid stripping your skin of its natural oils. Be sure to add moisturizing products to your bath and showering routine. Likewise, do not stay in the shower for very long, and kids should only be in the shower or bath for 10 minutes.
A cotton towel is also best to keep eczema flare at bay. Also, instead of wiping your body when drying off, try to dab it on your body instead to avoid irritating the skin.
A humidifier can help with dry air during the winter months by releasing warm vapor into your home to increase its humidity. By doing this, the humidifier keeps your skin moist and, in turn, prevents irritation. Always remember to clean and change the water in your humidifier. The best water to use to get the most result is distilled or demineralized water.
Avoid Contact with Certain Fabrics
Skin irritation and eczema flare-ups can be triggered by certain fabrics such as wool and nylon as they can cause overheating. Cotton, on the other hand, is more breathable and skin-friendly. As we have pointed out before, it is also essential to eliminate unnecessary layers of linen on your bed.
Treatment Options for Eczema in Children
Cold and dry weather is a leading cause of eczema. This, among other reasons, is why children experience eczema flare-ups in the winter months. To protect them, parents can use the following tips:
- Cover their skin when going outside. Children have sensitive skin, hence the reason to always ensure they are well-protected outdoors. Wear gloves, scarves, and hats.
- In contrast to the above point, children should take off their gloves, scarves, hat, and boots when inside the house to avoid sweating.
- Dress them in soft fabrics. Choose soft, non-irritating, and breathable clothes during winter months because children sometimes cannot tell their parents or caregivers when the fabrics irritate them.
- Always apply sunscreen even during winter. Sunscreen should be used on kids, especially when their skin is going to be exposed to sunlight.
- Moisturize their skin frequently. This is best done using an oil-based moisturizer. However, before you use any moisturizer, check with a professional and certified dermatologist to ensure the moisturizers you pick are suitable for your babies or children.
- Discourage children from scratching themselves when they feel an itch. Babies who are unable to comprehend this should have gloves put on their hands to hinder scratching.
Natural Remedies to Try for Eczema
Aside from the plethora of treatment options stated above to prevent atopic dermatitis. There are also natural remedies you can look into. These remedies do not only work but are also perfect for those who prefer natural treatment instead of processed emollients. Here are some natural ways to relieve eczema in the winter.
Aloe vera oil made from the plant’s leaves is an excellent emollient that keeps the skin moisturized. Aloe Vera also contains anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and, antiviral properties that improve skin health. While you can purchase a 100% natural aloe vera oil that is free of preservatives, alcoholic fragrances, and drying ingredients that can increase eczema symptoms, homemade aloe vera oil can also be helpful. Apply a small amount at a time at first and watch out for any irritation.
Apple cider vinegar
Beneficial for many skin conditions, apple cider vinegar is a staple in many homes. ACV helps to balance the acidity of the skin while reducing the itching caused by eczema flare. When using it, remember to dilute it. Whether as a wet wrap or as a bath soak, Apple cider vinegar can be used both ways. As a bath soak, you can leave it in the bath for about 20 minutes, and as a wet wrap, keep it on for up to 3 hours soaked in cotton gauze.
Colloidal oatmeal is made when common oat or oat grain is ground into fine powder. It contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Likewise, colloidal oatmeal is rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fats, among other nutrients known to be very beneficial to the skin. In fact, in 2003, it was officially categorized by the FDA to be a skin protectant.
Coconut oil is a nourishing emollient that works as a protective layer and an anti-inflammatory barrier to the skin. You can use virgin coconut oil directly on the skin after a bath. Coconut oil should be avoided in those allergic to coconut oil.
The way skin reacts varies from person to person. This, among other reasons, is why you need professionals to help you know what would work best for you and your kids. Eczema flare-ups can lead to other infections, which is why we at Front Range Dermatology are happy to help you get rid of them. Whether it’s winter-caused eczema or any other type of atopic dermatitis, our certified professional dermatologists in Fort Collins are always ready to work with you. So why not book an appointment with us today?