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Winter triggers eczema flare-ups


Colder weather can lead to increased cases of eczema (iStockphoto)
Colder weather can lead to increased cases of eczema (iStockphoto)

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

November 10, 2011 — An estimated 17 percent of Canadians suffer from eczema. How can you beat dry skin in the winter months?

Spending extra time in your car with the heat on can lead to dry skin
Spending extra time in your car with the heat on can lead to dry skin

The fall and winter months can be the harshest on your skin, leading to increased cases of eczema among Canadians.

“The combination of colder temperatures and decreased humidity draws water out of the skin and when that water draws out, your skin dries up,” says Dr. Julia Carroll, director of dermatology at the Medcan Clinic in Toronto.

The harsher elements of winter such as a cold wind can damage your skin and help natural barriers to break down. Forced air heating in your car, home and at work can also be one of the main culprits of dry skin.

“And we tend to spend more time in all of these places during the fall and winter months and that compounds the problem,” explains Dr. Carroll.

“Plus, the farther north you go, you're going to have more cases of eczema as there is a decreased humidity in the air. I spent some time practicing in Iqaluit and there's very high instances of eczema in that population.”

Harsher elements of winter can damage your skin
Harsher elements of winter can damage your skin

While winter and fall are the worst seasons to start seeing eczema flare up, there are some people that have trouble in the warmer climate as sweat can be a big component.

“Anybody can develop eczema. So unlike a condition like psoriasis, where you have to have a genetic background, eczema can affect anybody, all types of skin,” says Dr. Carroll.

The most common signs of eczema are red, itchy and flaky skin.

“If you have eczema for a long time you can get skin that's quite thickened and dry, sometimes there's been a swelling and you can even see some crusting or oozing,” warns Dr. Carroll.

In terms of treatment, the main thing you want to do is moisturize, but Dr. Carroll offers these additional tips for the winter months.

  • Avoid long, hot baths or showers.
  • Avoid harsh soaps and soaping areas that aren't physically dirty.
  • Pat dry after a bath or shower and moisturize right away to lock in moisture from the shower.
  • Bring a humidifier to the bedroom for the winter months.
  • Avoid products with a botanical base with a lot of scent added to them.
  • See your doctor or dermatologist for prescription creams if the problem persists.

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