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Basmah Qazi

5 tips for conquering eczema this winter

5 tips for conquering eczema this winter

Does your eczema – or your child’s – tend to play up at this time of year? The freezing cold combined with the effects of indoor heating and warm clothing make this a dangerous season for flare-ups. For top tips on managing eczema this winter, who better to turn to than pharmacist Julia Simmonds?

1. Moisturise, moisturise and then moisturise again

“With eczema, the skin is usually dry, which makes it an attractive home for bacteria to live,” says pharmacist Julia Simmonds, who founded Itchy Baby Co after her own child battled the condition. “The skin also does not function as it would normally as a protective barrier. Regularly moisturising the skin keeps it well hydrated, which stops bacteria living on the skin’s surface and causing infection. Moisturising will also provide a surface barrier to prevent allergens and triggers irritating the skin’s surface and causing itching and redness.” 

Are all moisturisers for eczema the same? 
“Thick ointments are generally more effective for eczema. This is because, unlike creams – which can be made up of up to 50 per cent water – ointments do not contain water. Water evaporates quickly from the skin, taking hydration with it. Creams are also more likely than ointments to contain harsh preservatives, which can more easily irritate eczema skin. 
 
“The best time to moisturise is straight after the bath and while the skin is still a bit damp, because this is when the pores of the skin are open and can absorb the most hydration from moisturising. You should also moisturise at least two to four other times during the day.” 

2. Bath time

“Keep bath time short; no longer than ten minutes, as having a long bath will dehydrate the skin. Test the water and make sure it is only lukewarm. Warmer water will raise the body’s core temperature and make the skin itchy.” 
 
Why is bath time important for managing eczema? 
“Bath time washes triggers away from the skin and also prepares the skin for moisturising after. Use this opportunity to use bath products that moisturise the skin, such as bath soaks and bath oils. Avoid soap and bubbles as these dry out the skin and strip the skin of its’ protective barrier. Changing towels regularly is also important to minimise the chances of infection from skin bacteria.”

3. Keep cool

“The most common eczema trigger is heat. Warm weather, warm clothing and warm bedding can all cause eczema to flare up. This is because children with eczema cannot cool themselves down as quickly as those who do not have eczema. Dressing your child in cotton clothing that allows the skin to breathe is best for eczema. Rather than dressing your child in heavy jumpers and outerwear, try to layer their clothes to make it easier to regulate their body heat. Check on what bedding you are using for your child and choose cotton sheets and light cotton blankets instead of doonas and duvets.”

4. Be prepared to act fast

“Once your child’s eczema has flared up, treating it quickly will reduce distress, uncomfortableness, sleepless nights and the chance of infection. Seek your doctor’s advice. Steroid ointments can be applied to the skin before using your regular moisturiser when treating a flare-up, and follow-up with your doctor if your child’s flare-up is not improving.”

5. Commit to a skincare routine

It’s important to understand the necessity of keeping to a skincare routine which you do every day for your child, even when they are not showing any signs of eczema. Basic skincare routines will include bathing daily using a skin-hydrating product in the bath, followed by applying a thick moisturiser immediately after the bath. Finding products which are effective is often a case of trial and error but once you have found them, and you are using them routinely, your child’s eczema will be better managed and flare-ups reduced.”
 
As always, if you are concerned about your own or your child’s skin, please see your healthcare professional for advice.

This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.