Managing Eczema Through Changing Seasons: The Winter Itch

By Hannah Schenker

The seasons are changing. Here in the Southern Hemisphere the heat and humidity of summer are making way for the cooler temperatures of Autumn. As the seasons change, so does our skin. Eczema sufferers may dread this time of year, as their skin reacts causing nasty flare-ups. Here are some tips for managing the transition and how to minimise the “Winter Itch”.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a dry, itchy skin condition.  It can occur at any age but is more common in childhood, affecting twenty per cent of babies and children. Your skin may appear dry, itchy, thickened, reddened, weepy, broken or cracked.

You may experience:

  • severe itching, especially at night
  • dry, scaly patches that are red to brownish-gray on the skin
  • small, raised bumps that could leak fluid and scab over if scratched
  • thick, cracked, dry, and scaly skin
  • raw and sensitive skin

Atopic dermatitis is particularly common in young children; there is nearly always a family history of dermatitis or asthma (source: DermNet NZ).

Eczema is no walk in the park, and can impact the whole family – not just the eczema sufferer. Treatment typically involves “a multifaceted approach that involves education, optimal skin care practices, anti-inflammatory treatment with topical corticosteroids and/or topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs), the use of first-generation antihistamines to help manage sleep disturbances, and the treatment of skin infections” [source].

For many people, these medications offer relief but there are some for whom this isn’t the only solution. They embark on a journey of examining diet, surroundings, clothing, the products used in their homes – and they slowly begin to identify their particular triggers and irritants.

This is not an easy journey. As temperatures start to change, so does what we wear, eat and do. A time for warm jumpers, heating the home and indulging in our favourite comfort foods, right? Colder weather means less humidity in the air, which causes our skin to evaporate more moisture than normal. As the skin dries out, it becomes uncomfortable and itchy. Then more cracks develop, letting in triggers and bacteria to the skin which has lost its barrier. It is quite common for eczema to flare up in winter months.

So what can you do?

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