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Cold, Dry Air Can Cause Atopic Dermatitis Flare-Ups: Tips To Minimize The Risk

Cold, Dry Air Can Cause Atopic Dermatitis Flare-Ups: Tips To Minimize The Risk

Atopic dermatitis flare-ups are more common in winter. Below are some tips you can try to minimize the risk.

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : February 28, 2022 8:01 PM IST

Winter is a much-awaited season for many people but not for all. A lot of people face different skin-related issues with the arrival of this season. Skin reacts differently than it does in the summer months. The drop in humidity can cause problems for people who have sensitive skin or diseases like psoriasis and eczema. As the atmosphere snatches away the skin's moisture, people start experiencing skin issues. There is an extreme version of such conditions known as Atopic Dermatitis (AD), where flare-ups are more common in winter due to the cold. The dry outdoor air and indoor heating can rob the skin of its natural moisture.

Patients with Atopic Dermatitis often have skin barrier dysfunction, which causes dry, itchy, scaly skin. According to studies, AD affects at least 2 per cent to 3 per cent of adults and 25 per cent of children. It is also stated that about 10 per cent -15 per cent of the Indian population has had some form of atopy and manifestation of AD since the 1st year of their life.

Atopic dermatitis symptoms can range from mild to severe. In acute or mild flare, the skin can feel itchy, dry, and irritable, others might also feel a stinging, burning sensation. During severe flares, the skin can crack and bleed.

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Increase in itchiness during winter here's why?

Healthy skin acts as a barrier to protect you -- the way a good coat of paint guards your house against the summer heat and winter snow. But when you have AD, that barrier just doesn't work as well. It fails to retain and lacks moisture, so your skin can get dried out and gets more irritated by heat, cold, humidity, wind, and more.

The flare-ups occur more frequently in the winter because the skin can't stay moist on its own. Flare-ups can also be caused by switching between cold and hot environments, wearing too many layers of clothing, taking hot baths, or using too many bed coverings. Harsh, windy conditions outside - followed by dry, centrally heated environments inside - can wreak havoc on the skin.

Infections, such as colds, non-specifically flare-up atopic dermatitis because they upset the immune system in general.

Better treatment or cure for AD

A range of treatments and home remedies can tackle winter flare-ups of AD or prevent rashes and itchiness. Unfortunately, calming the skin or redness of the patch by using OTC products may not be enough to help.

To minimize AD flare-up, you can try the following methods:

  • Avoid abrupt changes in temperature to help prevent a skin reaction. Maintain a more even body temperature by staying inside when possible. Wrap up well when going outside. Avoid tight, rough, and synthetic clothing.
  • Avoid long hot showers. Baths should be kept brief with warm water to avoid over-drying of the skin. Moisturizer right after you get out of the bath to lock in moisture when skin is still damp.
  • Apply moisturizers at least two to three times a day. Frequent use of moisturizers results in better control of itching. It helps to restore the skin's natural barrier function. Thicker moisturising creams over lotions are preferred during these cold dry months.
  • Protect the child against scratching their skin and contact irritants like harsh soaps, detergents. Switch to unscented skincare products to reduce irritation.
  • Change wet clothes and shoes immediately. These can irritate the skin and cause a are-up.
  • AD patients should also avoid washing the hands, face, or body frequently during winter as water can dry out the skin by stripping away its natural, protective oils.

These methods are suggested year-round but should definitely be taken seriously during winter, when your symptoms can become worse. However, you should consult with your dermatologist to make a proper treatment plan to treat AD and flare up in winter.

The article is written by Dr Nina Madnani, Dermatology Consultant at 2 Tertiary Care Hospitals.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article belong to the author. Readers are advised to exercise discretion and try out the mentioned tips/remedies only under the supervision and advice of a doctor.