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Cold, harsh winter air saps the moisture from your skin. If you’re not careful, this can result in a winter rash, or an area of irritated skin. Even if your skin is healthy the rest of the year, you may be prone to this condition in the winter. Here’s how to identify, treat, and prevent this condition.

Signs of a Winter Rash

You might have a winter rash if your skin appears red, swollen, or flaky. It may itch or feel sensitive to the touch. Bumps or blisters may form in the affected area. A winter rash can develop on any part of your body, but your hands, arms, and legs are the most susceptible.

Risk Factors to Consider

Anyone can get a winter rash, especially after spending a lot of time outdoors without adequate skin protection. Still, you may be more prone to this condition if you have a history of:

Why Winter Rashes Develop

Your skin has a protective outer layer of natural oils and dead skin cells, which help keep your skin soft, smooth, and moisturized. Cold temperatures, low humidity, and high winds strip this protective layer from your skin while you’re outdoors, and it doesn’t get any better when you come inside. Turning up the heat and taking hot showers prevent your skin from recovering. With all of these factors combined, skin tends to be itchy, dry, and irritated in the winter.

Besides chilly air and the harsh heat you use to combat it, other causes of winter rash include:

  • Sunburn (yes, this can happen in the winter, too)
  • Chemical-filled soaps and detergents
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Exposure to latex (if you have a latex allergy)
  • High stress and fatigue related to the winter holiday season

How to Treat a Winter Rash

Most treatment options are mild and can be implemented at home. Here’s what we recommend trying:

  • Apply lotion often.
  • Seal in moisture with petroleum jelly.
  • Soothe irritated skin with olive oil or coconut oil.
  • Dab the affected areas of your body with a clean cloth dipped in whole milk.
  • Use natural soaps made with oatmeal.
  • Treat itchy, irritated skin with cortisone cream.
  • Avoid scratching, which can cause cracking and bleeding.

Tips to Prevent a Winter Rash

No one wants to deal with a winter rash, so help prevent it with these tips:

  • Run a humidifier in your house, especially while you sleep.
  • Switch to showering every other day, and use lukewarm water.
  • Stick to natural, fragrance-free soap.
  • Wear a hat, scarf, gloves, and other protective clothing.
  • Wear sunscreen when spending a prolonged period outside.

Some winter rashes are just a nuisance and improve with lifestyle changes. Others should be checked out by a dermatologist. If your winter rash persists or becomes worse, give Arlington Dermatology a call at (847) 725-0824 to discuss possible treatment options.

 

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