January 8, 2019
Eczema and Health
While most people consider eczema as simply cosmetic, it is not. The itch-scratch cycle can cause significant life stress, affecting sleep and causing wild fluctuations in mood and behavior. It can even ruin a person’s day. Therefore, eczema should no longer be thought of as a nuisance disease. Recent studies have indicated that eczema sufferers are 44% more likely to have suicidal thoughts and 36% more likely to attempt suicide.1 Even in mild cases, eczema can bring about intense psychosocial and behavioral changes that affect not just the patient, but also those around them. As allergists, we try to understand and empathize with our eczema sufferers. Cold winters cause problems for a lot patients. We see a steady rise in eczema patients during this time, but before we can treat it, we need to understand why it happens, specifically, this time of year.
Most Common Causes for Eczema in the Winter
The first and most obvious cause of a winter time eczema flare up is the weather and environment. When it is hot outside, the warm air will vaporize water and therefore puts more humidity in the air. When it’s cold out, especially below freezing, almost no water vapor will go into the air. Going inside to outside with major temperature variations may also play a role in skin moisture. When we move from the cold, dry air outside, to the into dry, temperature-controlled buildings, what little moisture we have on our skin will evaporate. This moisture will take many oils and nutrients that protect our skin with it. The last environmental factor is the lack of exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D (in appropriate portions) has been proven to help increase skin moisture. 2 There may be other allergens that increase inside your home in the winter. These includes dust mites and indoor molds. Appropriate environmental control measures may also help.
Your bath and shower habits play a big role in your skin care. There are currently no official recommendations on how often an adult should shower. Recommendations strictly based on personal routines. Your skin type, how much you exercise, and exposure to dirt and other foreign substances will help to determine your bathing regimen. Bathing removes oils and nutrients that help to protect skin. If you already have skin dryness, bathing will often exacerbate the problem. Hot showers especially have been proven to remove more nutrients and oils than cooler or lukewarm showers.
The last factor could simply be stress. The holidays are a busy time. You may be trying to tie up loose ends at work, preparing to see family, driving through intense traffic, or fighting through hordes at the local mall. All of these activities could make your eczema worse or cause a flare- up.
Using this information, we can start to formulate plans based on your day to day activities.
Here are some useful tips to help you deal with your eczema:
- Cooler showers and baths (lukewarm NOT hot)
- Shower less often
- Use a milder soap, made for sensitive skin
- Consider using a humidifier up to 55% inside your home, preferably while you sleep
- Take Vitamin D supplements
- Moisturize your skin (specific cream based moisturizers, scent free, sensitive. We recommend Vanicream, Aveeno, Aquaphor, Cerave)
- Drink plenty of water, hydrate yourself!
Lastly, and most importantly, de-stress. Take a mental break. Remember that your eczema may only be temporary. Do something you love. A personal recommendation of mine is yoga. It’s relaxing, calming, and helps me to stay grounded. If you have already tried some of these things on the list and not had the results you want, we urge you to make an appointment with us. There are new treatments coming out every year that have the potential to help. These include topical, non-steroid based creams and ointments, as well as injectables for the most severe cases.
If you are suffering from eczema and are seeking treatment, contact the Allergy & Asthma Center at 1-800-778-9923 or email us.