Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a chronic skin condition that causes dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. It often begins in infancy or early childhood, and it can continue into adulthood. Atopic dermatitis is not contagious. 

Symptoms of atopic dermatitis can vary from person to person, but they typically include:

  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Rashes that may appear purple, brown, or grayish hue in darker skin tones and red in lighter skin tones
  • Thickened, leathery skin
  • Open sores
  • Skin infections
  • Intense itching that can disrupt sleep

Atopic dermatitis can be a frustrating and debilitating condition, but there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life. Treatment options and tips for preventing winter dermatitis include:

  1. Try to avoid contact with things that make you break out. If a trigger is the cold winter air, make sure you are bundled up with a scarf or face mask when outside. Soaps and wetness can cause skin irritation. Wash your hands only when necessary. Use mild unscented soaps, especially if you have eczema on your hands. Dry your hands completely after you wash them.
  2. Wear gloves to protect skin on your hands. Wear vinyl or plastic gloves for work that requires you to have your hands in water. Also, wear gloves when your hands are exposed to anything that can irritate your skin. Wear cotton gloves under plastic gloves to soak up sweat from your hands. Take occasional breaks and remove your gloves. This will prevent a buildup of sweat inside your gloves.
  3. Protect your skin when you go outside during the winter. Cold air and low humidity can dry your skin. Dryness can make your eczema worse. Wear clothes made of cotton or a cotton blend. Wool and some synthetic fabrics can irritate your skin.
  4. Bath or shower with mild unscented soaps. Keep the water temperature cool or warm, not hot. Soaking in the tub for a short time can be good for your skin. Doing so allows your skin’s outer layer to absorb water and become less dry. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Then use a soft towel to pat your skin dry without rubbing. Immediately after drying, apply a moisturizer to your skin. This helps seal in the moisture.
  5. Moisturize daily. Keeping the skin hydrated is essential for managing atopic dermatitis. Moisturizers should be applied to the skin several times a day, especially after bathing or showering. Avoid moisturizers with fragrances (perfume) and a lot of extra ingredients. 
  6. Limit Stress. Eczema can flare up when you are under stress. Changing your activities to reduce daily stress can be helpful.
  7. Topical corticosteroids. Topical corticosteroids are medications that can help reduce inflammation and itching. They are available in different strengths, and the strength of the medication will depend on the severity of the eczema.
  8. Phototherapy: Phototherapy is a treatment that uses ultraviolet light to reduce inflammation. It is typically used for people with moderate to severe eczema.
  9. Immunomodulators: Immunomodulators are medications that help to suppress the immune system. They are typically used for people with severe eczema that does not respond to other treatments.
  10. Know when it’s time to seek medical treatment. When you can’t break the “itch and scratch” cycle no matter how much moisturizer or anti-itch cream you apply, seek medical treatment from Dr. Monique S. Cohn, DO FAOCD a board-certified dermatologist. 

Some warning signs to look out for include persistent itching, trouble sleeping, or redness and inflammation with yellow crusting, as this could be a sign of infection. Schedule an appointment online at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center or by calling 330-425-7600 for diagnosis and treatment. With proper treatment, most people with atopic dermatitis can manage their symptoms and live a normal life.