What you need to know about avoiding eczema flare-ups this winter
With temperatures falling outside, Canadians are cranking up the heat indoors. For anyone this combination of hot and cold can irritate the skin, but for those with eczema, it can wreak havoc. And while some will rely on medications, creams or light therapy to help control symptoms, there are things you can do to minimize, or even prevent, flare-ups from occurring in the first place.
Know Your Triggers
Common eczema triggers include fragrances and dust mites. However, giving your house a good clean to get rid of dander and dust mites could also lead to flare-ups, as chemicals found in cleaning products can aggravate symptoms. Learn what your triggers are and avoid them as much as possible, or work around them. For example, wear long sleeves and gloves while cleaning to prevent your skin from coming into contact with harsh chemicals.
Certain types of clothing and laundry detergents can also irritate the skin. Use gentle detergents and if you must wear that wool sweater, layer it with a cotton shirt underneath.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
Those with eczema have a weakened skin barrier, making the application of an emollient, or moisturizer, even more important. To ease discomfort and help prevent flare-ups, a moisturizer shouldn’t just be applied frequently, it also needs to be done optimally. This means at least 2-3 times a day, and when applying after a shower or washing hands, don’t wait for the skin to be completely dry. It is best to apply an emollient when the skin to still slightly wet in order to lock moisture in. Because of the frequency of application and the need to apply to damp skin, look for moisturizers that are fast-absorbing and non-greasy.
In the not too distant past people with eczema were advised not to take baths and to avoid frequent showers, as it was believed water would aggravate symptoms. These days, we know better. In fact, short, frequent showers are now recommended. The key is to keep water warm, not hot, use mild soaps, and only soap-up when necessary.
Be Cognizant of Sweating
While no one can really avoid sweating, especially because it is a natural part of a healthy and active lifestyle, it is important to be cognizant of it. Sweat often triggers eczema flare-ups, but instead of avoiding the unavoidable, prepare for it. Dress in layers, use a towel to gently wipe sweat away, and shower as soon as possible after working up a sweat.
Use A Humidifier
While furnaces and heaters keep our homes warm, they also suck all the moisture out of the air, leading to dry, irritated skin. Humidifiers release moisture back into the air, helping prevent dry skin and chapped lips. But, you will need to regularly clean the humidifier otherwise mould and bacteria are likely to grow, which can worsen eczema symptoms for some people.
Bonus: What to do when flare-ups occur
Even when we do our best to avoid flare-ups, they can still happen. When they do, it is important to take a couple additional steps.
First, stay hydrated…
While drinking water will not cure eczema, it will keep you from becoming dehydrated, which can aggravate the skin.
Secondly, avoid scratching as much as possible…
I know, easier said than done, but itching will make it worse. Instead, use cool cloths to ease discomfort and distract yourself in any way possible. Keeping your nails short will help with this too.