How winter impacts on eczema

Winter weather is known to dry out your skin and can exacerbate certain skin conditions, such as eczema.

In this month’s blog, we take a look at how the increased prevalence of eczema in the winter months and how a regular skin check with your GP can help you keep on top of the condition.

Why does our skin get drier in winter?
One of the main reasons our skin dehydrates more in winter is due to continually moving from cold, dry air outside to warm, dry air inside, coupled with our tendency to use hotter water when bathing and showering.

According to Aesthetic Nurse Prescriber, Sylvia Chanovska, cold air causes the skin’s pores to tighten and reduces blood circulation.

This, in turn, reduces the skin’s sebum – a naturally occurring oil that acts as a protective layer and traps moisture next to the skin.

As a result, existing conditions that already make the skin prone to cracking and flaking may be aggravated.

What is eczema?
Eczema is a skin condition that causes the skin to become red, dry, itchy and scaly. In severe cases, the affected skin may weep, bleed and crust and may become infected.

The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis – a chronic, itchy skin condition that generally affects the elbows, knees, hands and face.

While it is very common in children, it can affect people of any age and often occurs in individuals with an existing predisposition to and/or family history of eczema, asthma or hay fever.

Those with eczema carry large numbers of Staphylococcal bugs on their skin which can make eczema worse by activating the immune cells that cause inflammation of the skin. As eczema often leads to broken skin, sufferers are at greater risk of contracting skin infections when an outbreak does occur. This can make the eczema worse and treatment more difficult.

Eczema can cause great discomfort for sufferers and impact on their quality of life, including sleepless nights due to itching, absenteeism from work, school and other activities, or hospitalisation and costly treatments when severe flare ups occur.

This video from the Australasian College of Dermatologists provides a useful insight into eczema and its impact on the lives of those who suffer from the condition>>

How is it treated?
While eczema cannot be cured, it can be managed.

The first step is consulting your GP or skin specialist for a formal diagnosis. They will then be able to work with you to develop an individualised treatment plan to best manage your eczema. This will often include a three-pronged approach of:

  • reducing your exposure to any triggers, where possible;
  • regularly applying moisturiser to your skin; and
  • intermittent treatment with topical steroids.

Other key recommendations for managing eczema day-to-day include:

1.  Washing your skin with non-soap cleansers, to help reduce the number of Staphylococcal bugs on your skin and maintain important oils that can often be stripped through the use of soap based products.

2.  Moisturising your skin every day to help replace the moisture that is often lost in winter and to block out germs that can cause infection. The best time to moisturise is generally after showering when the skin is still slightly damp. It’s important to use a moisturiser that is suited to your skin.

3.  Keeping showers and baths short and using lukewarm water (no more than 30oC), as hot water will cause your skin to dry out further.

4.  Wearing soft, breathable fabrics and loose fitted clothing to prevent further skin irritation.

5.  Avoiding the overuse of heaters, as they can dry the air and exacerbate the problem.

Skin checks available at Illawarra Medical Centre
Dr Ramachandran holds skin cancer and dermatology checks at Illawarra Medical Centre every Tuesday morning and works closely with our sister skin clinic – DermCosmesis – to assist patients with the best treatment solution for their specific skin needs.

To make a booking with Dr Rumachandran or any one of our GPs to discuss your skin concerns and the best treatment options available for you, go to our online bookings page or contact us on (08) 9208 6400.

To find out more about our dermatology services, visit the Dermatology page of our website>>

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