Should I Care For My Skin Differently
In Summer Than In Winter
If I have Eczema?
No one knows what causes an eczema rash. Known for periods of distressful symptoms (called “flare ups”) alternating with periods of remission, eczema almost always begins as a dry skin rash with intense itching. Breakouts may be widespread, covering large areas of the body, or may be limited to small areas such as the face, hands, feet, bends of the arms, and backs of the knees. When a long-time eczema sufferer is asked the question “what is eczema?” he or she will usually respond with strong references to the most distressful of all symptoms: agonizing itching. Without proper treatment this itching is often so severe that the eczema sufferer is helpless to avoid scratching.
Eczema looks like:
Scratching leads to redness, swelling, and scaling of the affected areas, the skin becomes thickened and begins to crack. The cracked skin then begins to weep, causing further inflammation and more itching. This cycle is an endless one, and the broken, moist skin soon becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
While we do not yet have a cure, we have made great progress in the world of eczema treatment. We have discovered that the skin of the eczema sufferer overreacts to certain substance. These “triggers” vary person to person, but some irritants such as temperature and moisture extremes are common. By reducing exposure to triggers, outbreaks of the eczema rash can be controlled, and complications avoided.
One of the most important components of eczema treatment is diligent daily skin care. Keeping the skin moist to prevent cracking becomes more difficult in winter when the air inside and out is much drier. Alcohol free creams and ointments should be applied not only after bathing, but several times during the day. Drier air indoors caused from forced air heating should be humidified to further prevent drying out of the skin, and gloves should be worn outdoors to prevent exposure of the hands to cold, dry air. Particular attention should be paid to fabrics that may cause flare ups. Wool and other rough fabrics should be avoided. Because dry air increases static cling, there is a higher tendency to use fabric softeners in winter. This introduces an additional potential irritant for some.
In summer, the major threat to the eczema sufferer is overheating and sweating. Whereas the treatment plan for winter skin care calls for increasing moisture to prevent an outbreak of the eczema rash, the goal for summertime skin care is preventing constant moisture. Skin care should be adapted in summer when humidity and temperatures are high. Newer fabrics that wick away moisture can be helpful, as well as focusing on use of breathable cotton. Daily skin care with creams or ointments specially designed for the eczema sufferer should continue in summer months. This helps lock moisture into the rash and restore the protective barrier that is lost when inflammation occurs. Eczema must not be taken for granted.