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Itchy Skin Related to Cold Weather

Itchy Skin Related to Cold Weather

Overview

Itchiness is common when the cold, dry winter air saps the moisture from your skin, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Fortunately, weather-related dry skin isn't usually serious, and is easily treated. It's also best to learn some ways to prevent any future itchy skin before the next bout of cold weather rolls around.

Cause

The top layer of skin is made of dead skin cells embedded in a mix of natural oils. The oils in this skin layer help keep water inside the body, and prevent irritants and germs from entering. The dead cells and skin oils lock some water into the top layer, which keeps the skin soft and smooth. Cold, dry air can damage the top skin layer, allowing water in the skin to escape and causing small cracks that expose underlying cells to irritants and germs. The irritation may cause nerves in the skin to send "itch" signals to the brain, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Symptoms

Itching can range in severity from mildly irritating to extremely uncomfortable and disruptive. Weather-related itching may be accompanied by other dry skin symptoms, such dullness, flakiness, roughness and more visible fine lines, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

Home Treatment

Applying a hypoallergenic oil or cream should help reduce your itchy skin by keeping it moist. Apply the moisturizer three or four times per day and right after you wash your hands or shower in order to seal in the water's moisture, recommends the American Academy of Family Physicians. If you tend to stand in a hot shower for 20 minutes or more, cut your shower time in half and turn down the heat to lukewarm. Use a moisturizing soap that contains little to no dye or fragrance to reduce irritation. You can also sprinkle some dry oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal product into a cool bath to soothe your skin, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Complications

Itchy and dry skin is at increased risk for infections. Your skin may be infected if it is swollen, red and warm, or if it is oozing fluid, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. See your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms or if your skin itch persists despite your best attempts to treat it with home remedies. Persistent itching may lead to prolonged scratching, which could cause permanent scarring or thick and leathery skin, according to MayoClinic.com.

Medicated Treatment

Your doctor may recommend that you try an over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone cream for a week to reduce itching, or he may prescribe a stronger cream or an oral antihistamine medication if the 1 percent cream doesn't tame the itch.

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