In many components of the US, the winter months carry frigid temperatures and drier conditions that may wreak havoc on the skin.

The major function of the skin, as the biggest organ within the physique, is to act as a bodily barrier to the exterior setting. When your skin is wholesome, it helps defend you from allergens and infections. But in winter, when the skin temperature and humidity drop, skin can grow to be particularly irritated.

We are a dermatologist and a medical scholar who research a broad vary of frequent skin conditions and the results of the setting on skin well being.

Heading into the winter months, a handful of frequent dermatological conditions can develop or worsen in response to the cold. These embrace eczema, chilblains, Raynaud’s phenomenon, cold urticaria and cold panniculitis.

All are conditions that may be irritating and uncomfortable, and some are tougher to treat than others. So it’s useful to know when to handle these conditions by yourself and when to see a dermatologist.


Eczema is an inflammatory skin situation that causes dry and itchy skin and could also be triggered by soaps and detergents, environmental or meals allergens, hormonal modifications and skin infections. There are quite a few forms of eczema, which frequently have overlapping signs.

Asteatotic eczema, often known as winter itch, is frequent in older adults. During the winter months, skin can grow to be drier and, in some cases, cracked, fissured and infected.

Severe dryness might lead to itchiness and scratching. In flip, this may create open wounds which will enable allergens and micro organism to penetrate the skin and trigger a rash or an an infection.

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This kind of eczema usually happens on the decrease legs, however eruptions can happen wherever on the skin, such because the trunk, arms and arms.

Keeping the skin hydrated is the first remedy. Water-based lotions might worsen skin drying, so making use of moisturisers with a excessive oil content material – like petroleum jelly, mineral oil or Vaseline – on moist or damp skin is advisable. Hypoallergenic and anti-itch moisturisers designed particularly for eczema are additionally accessible.

Other suggestions embrace changing lengthy sizzling baths with fast heat showers, switching to a milder cleaning soap, and utilizing a room humidifier if the local weather is dry. If itchiness and dryness persist, search care from a dermatologist, who might prescribe a topical steroid.

Hand eczema might also worsen within the winter as your arms are steadily uncovered to cold, dry air. Scaling, fissuring and bleeding on the arms is frequent. Minimising publicity to arduous or antibacterial soaps, together with utilizing mild cleaning merchandise adopted by making use of a petroleum-based unscented moisturiser can enhance signs.


Chilblains, often known as pernio, are small, itchy patches that may happen when the skin is uncovered to cold and damp weather, leading to swollen and painful bumps that have an effect on the fingers, toes, ears and face.

Poor circulation, blood vessel constriction, a historical past of autoimmune illness and being underweight might predispose folks to chilblains.

Afflicted areas are painful, itchy, swollen and often have a blueish to purple hue. In extreme instances, blisters and ulcers might happen. But for most individuals, the situation tends to spontaneously resolve inside one to three weeks.

Until that occurs, it’s necessary to preserve affected areas shielded from the cold. If the delicate space begins to blister, or if fevers, muscle aches and chills develop, it’s greatest to see a dermatologist or doctor.

Pseudo-chilblains, often known as “COVID toes,” will be brought on by COVID-19 an infection. Chilblains related to COVID-19 resemble the rash in chilblains – painful purple to blue-coloured nodules on the toes – however it isn’t particular to winter.

Raynaud’s phenomenon

Like chilblains, Raynaud’s phenomenon is a skin situation characterised by a big constriction of blood vessels within the fingers and toes in response to cold publicity. The digits might flip purple or blue, however they rapidly flush purple upon rewarming. Afflicted areas might also be numb or painful, and when extreme, might develop ulcers.

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To treat Raynaud’s phenomenon, it’s obligatory to keep away from cold-weather publicity. Ideally sufferers with Raynaud’s ought to gown for the cold in layers. At a minimal, be certain that to put on gloves and insulated footwear.

Avoid tobacco, caffeine and decongestants; they might trigger blood vessels to constrict extra. If signs don’t enhance rapidly – Raynaud’s due to cold usually will get higher after only some minutes – see a dermatologist or your doctor, as Raynaud’s phenomenon can be a manifestation of a extra critical systemic illness, together with most cancers, infections and/or trauma.

Cold urticaria

Cold urticaria is a skin rash believed to be triggered by an autoimmune response, which leads to the discharge of inflammatory molecules, together with histamine.

Soon after the skin is uncovered to sudden drops in temperature, wheals – often known as hives – might develop. These are reddish, itchy and swollen areas of skin. Such episodes can final for roughly two hours.

Occasionally, other signs accompany the outbreak, together with headache, chills, shortness of breath, belly ache and diarrhoea.

People can check for cold urticaria utilizing the ice dice check. This is completed just by inserting an ice dice on an space of skin for 5 minutes; you probably have cold urticaria, the skin will elevate and itch inside 5 to quarter-hour. Treatment entails avoiding cold publicity and utilizing over-the-counter antihistamines.

For those that have skilled cold urticaria, swimming in cold water will be harmful, as it will possibly lead to lack of consciousness and drowning.

Cold panniculitis

Cold panniculitis – which seems as enlarged, purple and painful nodules on the skin – develops 12 to 72 hours after cold publicity.

Cases of cold panniculitis have been documented in youngsters consuming Popsicles and in adults present process whole-body cryotherapy, which is commonly used as remedy for continual inflammatory conditions reminiscent of rheumatoid arthritis, or for bettering post-exercise restoration.

Cold panniculitis is extra frequent throughout childhood and often resolves by itself by avoiding cold publicity and direct contact with frozen merchandise.

Symptoms from winter skin conditions are sometimes self-limiting and resolve on their very own with satisfactory safety from the cold. But if signs don’t resolve, it’s best to see a licensed dermatologist, as cold-induced rashes could also be an indication of a extra regarding underlying well being situation.

If visiting your dermatologist in particular person proves tough, chances are you’ll take into account seeing a dermatologist just about, as many educational medical centres and personal practices now provide telehealth dermatology.

Pittsburgh Health Sciences (The Conversation)

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