Eczema affects up to 10% of the world’s population and is one of the commonest of skin problems. Characterized by dry, itchy skin which may also be flaky, red and/or cracked, seasonal changes may affect eczema severely.
Excess sweating in the summer months, for example, often cause flare-ups. Heat rashes can be nasty, itchy and uncomfortable. However, the kind of eczema I am concerned about here is the so-called ‘winter eczema’, in its severest form, known as asteototic eczema or ‘winter itch’.
Asteototic eczema mostly affects older people, is often on their limbs, and is also called, more vividly, erythema craquele. This is because the skin looks like ‘cracked porcelain’.
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The cold, dry air sucks water from the skin causing it to peel and crack. The increased loss of skin cells creates more water and oil loss leading to even drier skin. Indoor heating, which dries the air, and dehydration from not drinking enough water make this kind of eczema worse.
According to Mel Sinclair, a registered nurse, who runs the website Eczemasite.com, wearing winter clothing can also dry and irritate the skin:
During winter, the air is often a lot dryer as the humidity drops. People also wear extra layers of clothing to keep warm; often clothing that is known to irritate the skin or does not allow good air circulation.
These factors can cause eczema to flare up where it has not been a major issue during the summer months. Hence, [these people] only have eczema in the winter.
Unfortunately wearing wool, the warmest natural material, can chafe and irritate the skin, but it is difficult to avoid this in the winter! Synthetic materials don’t allow the skin to breathe so it isn’t a good idea for people who suffer from skin conditions to wear them at all, let alone in winter.
I have found acrylic can be especially scratchy and irritating. Cotton is the best material because it is natural, light and allows the skin to breathe.
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