Controlling the Eczema Itch in the Summer
Many eczema patients notice that their skin improves during the spring and summer. Higher temperature and humidity help the skin retain moisture, which is especially helpful for those with eczema as their skin's barrier function is less effective. In moderation, sunlight is thought to help eczematous skin, and some therapies are designed to take advantage of this mechanism.
For some patients, however, itching is a serious problem during the summer, and itching needs to be controlled in order to effectively treat eczema.
Why is itchiness an issue during the summer?
Itching is important to control for all eczema patients regardless of the season, however, the spring and summer can be a season that aggravates itching for some patients.
- Hay fever (pollen allergy) is a common problem during the spring and summer and can cause itchy skin. This is a common tendency in those with eczema and can occur concurrently, aggravating the eczema.
- Sweating is a problem during the summer as temperatures rise. Sweat irritates the skin, and can aggravate itching.
- Washing too often dries the skin and worsens eczema. Bathing and washing tend to be more frequent during the summer as we perspire more.
Why is itching important to manage?
- Itching will prompt scratching, which damages the skin that is already vulnerable due to eczema, and makes the condition worse.
- The scratch/itch cycle is one of the most persistent problems in eczema. This cycle starts when the skin itches due to eczema or other reasons. Scratching is a natural response to itch, and is an impulse that is very difficult to resist. If the itch is severe enough, scratching can occur during sleep, which is impossible to control. Scratching damages the skin and while it can relieve itch temporarily, the itch invariably becomes worse as the skin becomes damaged and eczema progresses.
- Eczema is relatively easy to manage when itch is controlled early during a flare before scratching damages the skin.
- Eczema can become troublesome if left uncontrolled during a flare. Scratching damages the skin, and can leave cuts in the skin. The dry skin around the eczema will often crack if left untreated. When this occurs, it is vulnerable to infection, which will cause further aggravation. It is important to take control of eczema at an earlier stage when it is easier to manage.
What should I do to control eczema during the summer?
The basics of eczema management do not change. Moisturize on a regular basis, and control flares quickly with topical medication before they become worse. Manage itch aggressively and try to control the scratching reflex. If the eczema is becoming worse, visit a dermatologist, who can prescribe an appropriate treatment.
Beyond the basics, summer is often good for eczema overall as the cold and dry air are the biggest factors that aggravate dry skin. Itching however is more prevalent during the summer and needs to be controlled. Keeping yourself cool to control sweating, wearing lighter clothing, and aggressively managing your itch are all important advice during the summer.
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