How to Relieve Atopic Dermatitis in Winter

November 18, 2022

Do you struggle with dermatitis? Does it seem to flare up in the winter? The cold weather along with the dryness of heating systems, combined with the use of hydro alcoholic gels and masks, further aggravate the symptoms of atopic dermatitis and favor the appearance of outbreaks. It is advisable to take extreme care of this type of skin.


Winter is the worst season for people suffering from atopic dermatitis.


The low temperatures during months, together with the dryness caused by heating, can aggravate the symptoms of this chronic skin disease.


In addition, the Covid-19 context does not help these patients at all.


Constant hand washing, the use of hydro alcoholic gels and masks, as well as the stress caused by the uncertainty generated by the pandemic accentuate the outbreaks of dermatitis.


Why Does Atopic Dermatitis Worsen in Winter?


Atopic dermatitis has a genetic basis that causes:


A malfunction of the skin's protective barrier causes dehydration and activation of the immune system, leading to outbreaks of inflammation.

Hence the intense itching, dryness, irritation, and tendency to eczema that these patients experience.


The situation is even more aggravating in winter because the low temperatures already reduce the body's production of the skin's protective oil, which promotes dehydration, typical for atopic skin, and makes it more vulnerable to outbreaks.


It is the most prevalent chronic inflammatory skin disease in American children (13%) but also affects adults (7.3%).


To date, there is no cure for atopic dermatitis, but it is possible to alleviate the symptoms and intensify care in winter.


Do Not Overdress


Wearing too much clothing promotes sweating, which worsens atopic dermatitis.


However, the skin does not want to be cold either, so it is necessary to find a middle ground.


Don't forget that since 2020 it's highly recommended to ventilate closed spaces to eliminate viruses, so it will probably be necessary to use more warm clothing in offices or schools during winter. But, as we said, it is not advisable to overdo it to avoid sweating.


Cool the Skin at Home


Skin with atopic dermatitis appreciates the sensation of freshness when itching is more intense.


Misting the skin with a water spray provides immediate relief because it reduces itching and provides a moisturizing effect. 


By being more comfortable, you also avoid scratching your skin, a gesture that worsens atopic skin, especially in winter when it is even drier.


Why Is Ventilation Necessary?


If you suffer from atopic dermatitis, you should keep ventilating in mind every winter because heating, like air conditioning, dries out the environment, and that leads to:


  • Skin dehydration

  • Increased itching and irritation

  • Increased risk of skin infection


Ambient humidity should not be less than 30%. To achieve this:


  • Open the windows several times a day, especially when the atmosphere is stuffy.

  • Place bowls of water on top of radiators, heaters, or other heating bodies. It helps to disperse humidity in the environment.


Lukewarm Showers Shorter than 5 Minutes 


Long, hot showers are a must during winter, but this comforting gesture can damage atopic skin. 


  • The water temperature should not exceed 93º F.

  • Do not rub the body with sponges, wash it with your hands. 

  • Gently pat your skin with a towel to dry. 

  • Always apply moisturizer after showering.


Moisturize Your Skin Inside and Out


Moisturizing the skin is not advised for atopic skin only, it is a must, especially during cold months. In atopic skin, dryness can further alter the skin barrier, worsen the symptoms, and leave it unprotected against infections. That's why you must moisturize inside and out:


Apply moisturizing and soothing emulsions specifically for atopic skin. Nowadays, some brands soothe outbreaks and reduce itching and irritation of atopic dermatitis.


Drink two liters of water a day.


Avoid heavy meals, spicy foods, and acidic fruits and vegetables such as oranges or beets.


Increase consumption of Omega-3 (oily fish, walnuts) and vitamin A (carrots, pumpkin, melon).


Beware of Hydro Alcoholic Gels


Its use has become routine, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.


It is quicker to use this product than soap and water to wash the hands, however, both in an adult and in a child diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, it is a very aggressive cleaning method that can aggravate the flaking and irritation of the skin.


A study carried out in Denmark with children in day-care centers confirms that after the hygiene regime implemented during the pandemic, a high proportion of children developed hand eczema.


Dermatologists advise to:


  • Prioritize hand washing instead of the use of hydro alcoholic gel whenever possible.

  • Apply a moisturizing and emollient cream at the end of the day to keep the skin barrier balanced and well hydrated.


Protective Masks and Atopic Dermatitis


Masks also provoke skin problems if you suffer from dermatitis, especially in children.


Use 100% cotton reusable masks if you see that surgical masks, disposable hygienic masks, n95, or FFP2 cause symptoms. This advice is applicable in open spaces, well-ventilated areas, or outdoors.


The best option would be not to use a mask at all, but seeing the situation the world's facing again with the new virus outbreaks, protective masks may become mandatory again. 


Final Word


Atopic dermatitis affects 13% of American children and 7.3% of adults, and to date, there is no definite cure for this common skin condition. 


The worst time of the year for atopic dermatitis patients is winter, as the skin gets dryer during the extreme cold outside and the high temperature indoors. 


Taking proper care of atopic skin by applying moisturizers, avoiding hot showers, hydrating, and staying away from hydro alcoholic gels as much as possible are some of the best solutions for atopic dermatitis symptoms, especially during winter.