Why does Eczema get worse in winter?
What is Eczema?
Eczema is inflamed skin. It can be difficult to distinguish from other skin conditions. Symptoms include:
- Weeping and crusting
- Thickened scaly & cracked skin (if longstanding)
- Skin infections
What’s the difference between Dermatitis and Eczema?
Eczema and dermatitis are interchangeable terms – they mean the same thing
What causes Eczema?
- Reaction to sunlight
- Reaction to fungal infection
- Swollen legs
- Certain medications
- Stress can make eczema worse
- Exposure to irritating substances
Why is Eczema worse in winter?
- Eczema can be worse in Winter because cold air is dry
- The heating systems in buildings can further remove moisture from the air
- This leads to dry skin
- Wearing lots of layers may also make Eczema worse
Are there different types of Eczema?
There are many different types of Eczema. These are some of the most common types:
- Usually starts in childhood
- Often improves as you get older
- Often runs in families
- Strongly associated with asthma & hayfever
- Occurs as an allergic reaction things in the environment such as – diet, airborne particles, fabrics/chemicals contacting the skin. It may also be worse in certain types of weather.
- The classic examples are after contact with a belt buckle or watch strap, or after handling caustic chemicals
- There are 2 types of Contact Dermatitis- it can be Allergic – the immune system reacts to an allergic trigger, developing a day or 2 after the contact. Or it can be Irritant – the skin is directly injured and becomes inflamed due to contact, developing within hours.
- Usually affects the scalp, eyebrows and other parts of the face
- Can be associated with other skin conditions like and psoriasis
- Affects the hands or feet
- Bumpy itchy skin, usually on the sides of the fingers or toes
- Usually worse when sweating
- Sometimes follows direct contact with nickel
- Can be triggered by stress
- Often no cause found
- Occurs as a reaction to the UV light in sunshine
- Characteristically appears only on the area of skin exposed to the sun
- Mostly affects women
- White spots and redness around the mouth
- Treatment is with antibiotics (usually applied to the skin directly)
- Also known as Annular or Nummular Eczema
- Scattered patches (often round)
- Cause is unknown
- Also known as stasis, gravitational or leg eczema
- Develops in people with swollen legs
- The skin gets darker and itchier as the legs swell
How common is Eczema?
- In Australia approximately 1 in 5 children have Eczema
- Approximately 3% of adults have Eczema
What can I do to make my Eczema better?
Changes to how you wash
- Use a soft towel and pat yourself dry (rather than rubbing)
- Avoid using soaps – try using oily moisturiser instead
- Don’t use bubble bath
- Add unfragranced oils to your bath
Changes to your clothes
- Use sensitive-skin detergents in your washing machine
- Allow only cotton to be in direct contact with your skin wherever possible
Changes to how you moisturise
- Use moisturiser as often as possible, particularly after washing
- Use moisturisers that are unfragranced
- Switch between moisturisers until you find one that works well for you
- Usually oily moisturisers are more effective but they may not be absorbed as easily
- You don’t need to buy expensive moisturiser – cheap moisturisers are just as good
- Stay well-hydrated
- Install an air humidifier where you live/work/sleep
Commonly used medications
- For itching
- Topical steroid creams & ointments- these should be used at the lowest effective strength as they can cause significant side-effects. They should only be used in addition to the measures described earlier.
- Antibiotics- if skin infection is thought to be playing a part in the Eczema
- “Occlusion dressing”- the practice of applying moisturiser thickly under cotton bandages & gloves to treat eczema in children
- Less-commonly used medications, usually under the guidance of a specialist include:
- Ultraviolet light therapy
- Coal tar ointment
- Immunosuppressant medications