Weather can be tough on anyone’s skin, especially if you have eczema. But which weather is worst? That depends on the person. Hot, cold, humid, and dry -- any type of weather can cause an eczema flare-up in some people.
Find out how to prepare for your itchy weather -- and the ways that weather can trigger your symptoms.
How Weather Affects Your Skin
Healthy skin acts as a barrier to protect you -- the way a good coat of paint guards your house from the summer heat and winter snow.
But when you have eczema, that barrier just doesn’t work as well. It leaks moisture, so your skin can get dried out and gets more irritated by heat, cold, humidity, wind, and more.
Weather also can affect your eczema indirectly. For example, a warm, windy day can blow pollen into the air and onto your skin. If you’re allergic, that means an itchy flare-up. The weather can change your own behavior as well. If you’re outside more in the warmer months and huddled under a blanket in the winter, you’ll be exposed to different eczema triggers in different seasons.
The key is to notice the types of weather that stir up your eczema -- and scratching.
Eczema in Hot, Humid Weather
For some people with eczema, warm, sunny, and humid weather brings relief. Others find that the hot weather triggers prickly heat and a frenzy of scratching. To ease symptoms, try these tips:
Don’t get too sweaty. Sweating dries out your skin, and the salt in sweat can sting and irritate it. So try to stay cool. Take it easy on hot days and stick to indoor activities. Use air conditioning or a fan if you need one.
Wear soft, breathable clothing. Keep your skin cool by staying away from nylon, wool, rough linen, or any fabric that’s stiff or itchy. Generally, cotton is best.
Know how the sun affects you. Sunlight can be a salve for eczema. In fact, people with severe cases can benefit from ultraviolet ray treatments. But others find that sunlight is a trigger. If you’re one of them, shield yourself with clothes and a hat.
Prepare before you swim. Chlorine in pools or the salt in seawater can be irritating for some people with eczema. Apply a layer of lotion before you dive in to see if it helps.
Rinse off possible triggers. Take a quick, cool shower to soothe your skin and wash away sweat, chlorine, salt water, pollen, or other triggers. Gently pat yourself dry and apply cream right away.
Watch the sprays and lotions. Sunscreens and bug sprays can have chemicals that trigger symptoms. Opt for sunscreens that physically block the ultraviolet rays with the minerals zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Test a sample on your arm before you slather it all over your body.
Eczema in Cold, Dry Weather
Winter air can be hard on your skin, drying it out and triggering an eczema flare-up. Here’s what you can do:
Keep showers tepid. It’s especially hard in the winter, but you always need to use lukewarm water in the shower or bath. Hot water can trigger symptoms, especially if you’re changing temperatures quickly -- like coming inside from shoveling snow and hopping into a hot bath.
Moisturize! You should already be doing it daily -- ideally right after you bathe -- year round. But it’s especially important when the weather is cold. Make sure you apply the cream or ointment your doctor recommends on any body parts that might be exposed to cold air, like your face and hands. Think of cream as an extra barrier you need to help lock in moisture and protect your skin.
Guard against itchy clothes. Your cozy wool sweater can be an eczema trigger. If you do wear wool, use a cotton shirt underneath to cover your skin. Wear cotton gloves under your winter gloves or mittens.
Don’t overheat. When you’re bundled up in a heavy coat, it’s easy to break out in an itchy sweat. Wear layers, and take them off and put them on as needed to stay comfortable.
Watch out for indoor allergens. If you’re cooped up inside in winter weather, you may be surrounded by indoor allergens -- like pet dander, dust mites, and more. If allergies are a trigger for your eczema, take steps to control them. Keep pets out of your bedroom, put dust mite-proof covers on your mattress and pillows, remove carpeting, and wash sheets and blankets regularly.
When to See a Doctor
If you feel like you’re losing the battle with Mother Nature over your weather-related symptoms, see your doctor or dermatologist. They can help you pinpoint the causes and can also prescribe different or more powerful remedies, including corticosteroid creams or ointments and antihistamines.