As the summer fades and cool weather sets in, people with eczema often see an increase in symptoms because of:
- A decrease in humidity in the air
- Allergens such as pollen, mold and mildew
- Dry indoor air from heating systems
- An increase in stress, especially for those returning to school or going back to work after an extended vacation
Here are 12 tips for helping decrease the likelihood and severity of fall weather flares.
Manage your indoor environment
At home, try to keep the temperature cool; the more your heat comes on, the drier the air will be. Use a humidifier, especially in rooms where you spend the most time, such as your living room and bedroom. If you work outside the home, it is more difficult to manage the temperature but you might be able to use a desktop humidifier to help control the environment.
Avoid overwashing and frequently washing your hands
Your hands can become dry, chapped and cracked during the cooler weather. Limit washing your hands to when it is necessary as overwashing or scrubbing your skin can cause your skin to dry out and crack. When you do wash your hands, use mild hand soap without added perfumes. Liberally apply moisturizer after washing your hands. If your hands do become dry, use a thick cream or emollient before bedtime and wear soft gloves or socks while you are sleeping to help seal in the moisturizer.
Switch to a heavier moisturizer
During the warm, humid summer months you might find that a moisturizing lotion works fine but as the weather cools, it might not be enough. Switch to a thick cream, emollient or ointment for areas that are severely dry. Liberally apply your moisturizer when your skin is damp after a shower or bath to help seal in the moisture from the water. Buy extra trial sizes or use small containers to carry moisturizer with you. Regular moisturizing of your skin is essential to managing eczema.
Lower the temperature in your shower or bath
Hot water can dry your skin. Lukewarm showers or baths are better when you have eczema. The National Eczema Association suggests that you take at least one bath or shower per day for at least 10 to 15 minutes, allowing your skin to soak up the water. You should avoid scrubbing and pat dry when done.
Know your triggers
Not everyone has the same triggers for eczema. Pay attention to what in your environment might cause a flare. Some people find allergens, dry air, cold wind, scented soaps, dust mites or household cleaning chemicals cause their eczema to flare. By understanding your triggers, you can take steps to prevent the flare.
During a transition from one season to another, weather can be unpredictable or rapidly change during the day. For example, it might be cold in the morning but warm by afternoon, or it could be nice in the morning and later be windy and cold. Instead of dressing only for the morning, wear layers so you can add or take off a layer depending on the temperature throughout the day.
Get out of wet clothes
Wet or damp clothes can be irritating to the skin and also increase evaporation, which leads to dry skin. If you are sweating or get caught in a rainstorm, change into dry clothes as soon as possible. Be sure to moisturize your skin before putting on dry clothes.
Use sun protection
Summer might be over but there are still dangerous UV rays that can cause a sunburn or irritate your skin. Apply sunscreen every morning before leaving the house and reapply every few hours.
Pay attention to fall allergens
Pollen is still in the air during the fall months. In addition, allergens such as mold and mildew might be more prevalent, especially in damp weather. Take time to change filters on heating systems before starting them up to reduce the chance that turning on the heat will send allergens into the air in your house.
Drink plenty of water
As the weather cools, you might not feel thirsty but your body still needs water. Staying hydrated helps keep your skin moisturized.
Treat flare ups promptly
When you notice the first signs of an eczema flare, treat it accordingly. Use topical steroids and emollients to manage the itch and discomfort and continue treating it until it is completely healed. Not treating eczema can lead to broken or cracked skin, which can lead to infection.
Talk to your doctor
If at-home and over-the-counter remedies aren’t providing relief, talk to your doctor about stronger medication. You should contact your doctor if the itch is severe and interfering with your daily activities or your ability to sleep or causing other complications. You should also see a doctor if there are open cracks or fissures or if there is oozing, as this can signal an infection.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.