Eczema and the Weather

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: December 2023 | Last updated: December 2023

There are many possible triggers for an atopic dermatitis (eczema) flare-up. One common trigger is the weather. Changes in temperature, both warm and cold, can make eczema symptoms worse. Each person responds differently to changing seasons, but flare-ups are common during extreme weather.1,2

Cold weather and eczema

There are several reasons why eczema symptoms might worsen during the winter. In general, the cold, dry air and wind outside can be irritating to the skin. But wearing lots of clothing like scarves, gloves, and sweaters can also be a problem if they contain irritating fabrics.1,3

On the other hand, staying inside to escape the cold can present a challenge for your skin. Central heating systems dry out the air. If you have eczema, this can make your already dry skin even more dry.1,3

Keeping windows and doors shut all winter also can lead to decreased airflow and ventilation in the house. When this happens, dust mites and mold grow more easily.1,3

Finally, colds and the flu virus travel widely in the winter. The stress an illness puts on your immune system and mental health can trigger worsening eczema symptoms too.1,3

Tips for navigating the cold

It may be frustrating to face challenges both inside and outside the house during colder months. However, there are a few ways to reduce flare-up risk during this time. Tips include:1,3,4

  • Bathe in lukewarm water, and avoid excess scrubbing.
  • Moisturize the skin multiple times daily, especially after bathing.
  • Avoid using scented lotions, detergents, or cleaners that can irritate the skin.
  • Use an air humidifier indoors. Keep humidity below 50 percent to prevent dust mite growth.
  • Keep all rooms in the home at a constant temperature.
  • Open windows for short periods (when possible) for better airflow.
  • Dust surfaces with a damp cloth, and vacuum regularly.
  • Change air filters at home when recommended.
  • Practice good infection prevention by washing your hands, drinking plenty of water, and eating a well-balanced diet.
  • Wear warm layers of clothes made of non-irritating fabrics (like cotton).
  • Take all treatments and use all creams as recommended (or prescribed) by your healthcare provider.

Warm weather and eczema

Although some people may have symptom improvement during the summer months, others may face new challenges. Just like central heat, central air conditioning dries out the air. This lack of humidity indoors can make the skin drier, increasing the risk of eczema flare-ups.2,5

Outside the house, certain allergens that can act as triggers are present in higher amounts during the warm months. These allergens include pollens and grasses.2,5,6

Also, hotter temperatures can lead to more sweating. Sweat can collect in places like the creases of the elbows and irritate the skin. And because people with eczema tend to have weakened skin barriers, they may produce more sweat than others, leading to more irritation.2,5,6

Pool water, sunscreen, bug spray, and other substances that are a typical part of outdoor summer life can also act as skin irritants.2,5,6

Tips for navigating the heat

Some of the best tips for navigating the heat are similar to those for the cold. Keeping the skin moist, increasing humidity in the home, and using non-irritating soaps and moisturizers are important, no matter the season.2,5,6

Other tips for getting through the warm summer months with eczema include:2,5,6

  • Wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing that does not trap sweat and protects against the sun.
  • Avoid sunscreens or bug sprays with scents or irritating ingredients – Ask your doctor about alternative sunscreens like zinc oxide.
  • Keep a cotton towel with you to soak up sweat and prevent it from sitting on the skin.
  • Bathe in lukewarm water right after spending time outside or exercising.
  • Rinse off after swimming in pools or saltwater.
  • Stay well hydrated, especially when sweating.
  • Use a humidifier in the home if you are running the air conditioning.

If you find life during the cold or hot seasons challenging, or if these tips are not enough to keep your eczema symptoms under control, talk with your doctor. They may be able to recommend different treatment options for each season. They may also be able to help you identify new triggers and ways to avoid them.

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