Q My daughter has eczema and it seems to worsen every winter. How can I best help her with the itchiness and discomfort?
A Gathering around the fireplace, wearing wool socks, and putting on cozy sweaters are just a few ways we like to stay warm during winter weather. But while we love these activities, the freezing temperatures and loss of humidity that come with the cold can dry out your skin, especially when combined with turning the heat up too high. That’s why skin disorders associated with an inability to maintain hydration – such as eczema – are more likely to flare and be more difficult to treat during this time.
First, I would recommend encouraging your child not to scratch her skin. Scratching increases inflammation, which triggers further itching – it’s an endless and destructive cycle. Antihistamines like Claritin® or Zyrtec® can help manage the itchiness factor through the winter months. After that, the most imperative tip is being diligent about skin hydration. Creams or ointments can help greatly with sealing in moisture, and work best applied within the first few minutes after a lukewarm shower or bath (hot water strips skin of its oils). Also, make sure she drinks plenty of water. Turn the thermostat down to decrease the hot dry air in your home, and set up a humidifier in her bedroom to keep the air moist. Help her avoid trigger factors such as certain foods, allergens, and irritating clothes or products (no fragrances).
For mild flares, certain over-the-counter anti-inflammatory creams like hydrocortisone can be helpful. According to the severity of the flare, your skin care professional may prescribe a topical anti-inflammatory cream. Lastly, make sure you seek treatment if she has any illnesses or infections. Skin infections can exacerbate eczema and should be treated appropriately. Flares are inevitable at some point and should be treated appropriately to prevent further skin damage or disease.