With cold dry weather of winter approaching, you should be aware that it can make your eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) flare up by drying out your skin and causing it to crack, and become chapped.
Although eczema is a chronic condition, remission is possible and control is definitely available. Here are some tips to help you 'weather' the winter months:
- Avoid things that can worsen your eczema, such as wool, irritating clothing, harsh soaps and cleansers
- Use a mild soap that is especially designed for sensitive skin. Avoid using cleansers that dry your skin. (Read www.mildcleanser.ca for more information)
- Also avoid spot creams and alpha hydroxyl acids.
- Moisturize daily, or more often.
- Start active treatment with either topical cortisones or the new non-steroidal creams or ointments prescribed by your doctor.
- Relax and avoid excessive outdoor activity.
- If you are sure that external factors such as allergens are a factor, you should consider seeing an allergist for allergy testing or a dermatologist for skin allergy testing called patch testing.
- Speak to co-workers about your condition in order to help them better understand this skin disorder.
If your child is suffering from atopic dermatitis:
- have them tell you right away if they are feeling itchy. Try to re-emphasize that scratching can make things worse.
- read children's books about eczema to help him or her better understand this condition.
- consider reading children's books about eczema to your child's classmates so that they can be made more aware of your child's condition
- participate in school activities or educational forums to educate yourself or your child regarding eczema.
Also, check out web sites (such as www.eczemaguide.com) for better information about atopic dermatitis and about new treatments that may be coming on the market. Remember, control is available for a comfortable winter.
Dr. Ronald Vender is affiliated with Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation. He is Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine in the Department of Dermatology at McMaster University. He is also Active Staff and Head of the Service of Dermatology at St. Joseph's Hospital, Department of Medicine.