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Find relief for wintertime skin flare-ups

If your daily lotion is no longer keeping your skin moisturized this winter, you might be suffering from an underlying skin condition. Weather-induced skin conditions become increasingly more common as you go from the warm indoors to the cold outdoors and vice versa. The effects of this shift in temperature can be brought on as you browse open coolers at a grocery store or wash your hands in hot water after being out in the cold.

Carol Wiggins, M.D., an allergy and immunology specialist at Piedmont, says the three most common skin conditions she sees in the winter-time are dry skin, eczema and hives.

Dry, itchy skin

As soon as the temperatures start to drop outside and thermostats inside go up, dry, itchy skin sets in. The moisture is not only zapped from the air, but it is depleted from your skin as well. If it is not replenished, dry, itchy skin can turn into an unsightly and uncomfortable red rash. 

Severe itching

Eczema is a skin condition sometimes called dermatitis that causes dry, flaky, red patches, often accompanied by severe itching. It can be worsened by environmental factors like cold temperatures. Both adults and children can get eczema, but Dr. Wiggins says they tend to be worse for populations at both extremes of life.

“Young children have more delicate skin, and the elderly tend to produce less oils, thereby providing less support and protection for their skin.”

Dr. Wiggins also says to minimize itchy-flare-ups, it is especially important not to scratch eczema, because this can cause the spread of bacteria into cracks in your skin, which can lead to infection. 

Immune reaction

Cold-induced hives are caused by an immune reaction in your body that triggers cells in your skin to release chemicals that cause itching, swelling and redness when it is exposed to temperature changes. This can occur in both adults and children and may be triggered by a variety of cold encounters, like cold weather, exercise, iced beverages, ice cream, or even jumping into a cold pool. Cold-induced hives can be diagnosed with a simple ice cube test. If you place an ice cube on your skin for five minutes, within a few minutes of its removal, raised red bumps will begin to form. Dr. Wiggins says these hives can happen sporadically or can be hereditary.

Keep skin healthy this winter

To protect your skin from any of these uncomfortable skin conditions, Dr. Wiggins suggests the following tips:

Temper hot water. While hot showers and baths are especially tempting during cold weather, hot water further strips your skin of its essential oils and moisture. Instead opt for lukewarm water, and do not shower for longer than 10 minutes.

Do not towel off. Instead gently dab your skin with a towel. Rubbing skin dry can strip it of essential oils.

Boost moisturizers. When your skin is still damp, apply a healing skin ointment to seal in moisture.

Plug in a humidifier. When you turn up the heat in your home, moisture is zapped from the air. Replace it by using a humidifier.

Bundle up. Wear warm clothing to avoid contact with extreme cold temperatures. Wear gloves, a scarf and hat to protect your extremities, which are especially susceptible to these skin conditions.

“Keep in mind that winter does not last forever, which means the intensity of these skin conditions typically will not be long-term,” says Dr. Wiggins. “As the weather becomes milder — more humidity and moisture are back in the air — your skin will become less dry and irritated. But if you’ve tried several remedies and still are not getting relief, it is time to see your doctor.”

For more health and wellness tips, click here

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