How to Prevent Flare-Ups of Eczema This Winter
If you develop dry, itchy patches of skin known as eczema, you’ve probably noticed that they’re more likely to flare up with cool weather. Here are some tips for preventing these flare-ups and managing when they do happen.
It’s important to remember that eczema is not contagious, so you don’t have to go out of your way to avoid other people. (However, there are other types of rashes in this world that are contagious, so if you have a rash and don’t know where it came from, look at it.) Flare-ups of eczema occur when your skin is exposed to an irritant. or an allergen, and then your immune system will overreact. Therefore, to prevent eczema, it is necessary to avoid triggers and take good care of your skin to minimize irritation.
When to moisturize to prevent flare-ups of eczema
Dry skin can cause eczema, and it can also be more susceptible to irritation from other factors. This can end in a vicious cycle: many people prone to eczema have dry skin, and dry skin increases the likelihood of developing eczema.
The National Eczema Association recommends applying a moisturizer after your bath and anytime your skin becomes dry or itchy.
Take a bath often to prevent flare-ups of eczema
You don’t want irritants to stay on your skin longer than necessary, so take a bath or shower every day. For the best soothing effect on your skin, use warm water and choose a mild cleanser. Look for a product for sensitive skin with a low pH (i.e. slightly acidic).
Sweat can be a trigger for eczema , so be sure to shower after exercise. Some people even lower their exercise intensity during a flare-up of eczema to minimize the effects of sweat on their skin.
Consider you have eczema triggers
It is worth finding out exactly what factors cause exacerbation of eczema. This list will be different for everyone, but this list of common triggers can be useful as a starting point. Metals (such as in jewelry) are one of the common culprits. Clothing made from wool or certain synthetic fabrics can also be a trigger.
Personal care products are also a potential source of triggers. If you’re rigorously moisturizing your skin and your eczema seems to be getting worse, check what’s in your lotion. For example, I learned the hard way that I am allergic to lanolin, which is found in many “soothing” creams designed for very dry skin.
I know it’s hard to do, but don’t scratch
Scratching an itchy area of skin can open up the skin and make it more susceptible to infection. Infected skin, in turn, may be more itchy and inflamed, as well as more susceptible to other provoking factors.
So if you can avoid scratching at all, don’t. A moist skin wrap soothes the skin. Whitening baths with as much chlorine as pool water are another way to deal with itching. (Chlorine can help if your skin is infected, but the National Eczema Association recommends consulting your doctor before using a chlorine bath for the first time.)
Consider asking about medications (and use them consistently)
If hydration and preventing triggers aren’t enough to control eczema, consider asking your doctor about stronger options. There are medications that can help with flare-ups of eczema, as well as other treatments such as phototherapy .
If you have been prescribed a medication, use it as directed, which often means taking it before the flare-up becomes severe. Since irritation can flare up eczema and vice versa, you’d better stop this cycle before it starts.