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What Is Winter Itch?

Abnormally dry and itchy skin can be a sign of winter itch.
Winter itch may affect the underarms.
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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2014
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Winter itch is a form of eczema that is exacerbated during the winter months. The skin condition goes by a number of names including asteatotic eczema, eczema craquelé, dessication dermatitis, pruritus hiemalis, and xerotic eczema. It is also sometimes called Winter eczema. Winter itch typically affects people who live in climates that experience cold winter months. It is highly unlikely that anyone living in areas that are warm all year round will suffer from this skin condition.

The key features of the condition are abnormally dry skin that is itchy and even cracked. These symptoms cause the skin to feel very itchy. Scratching the skin, however, only causes more dehydration and irritation, which just makes the problem worse. Skin that has been affected by winter itch often looks as though it is covered in small pimple-like bumps. The skin appears to have a rash and is often red and slightly inflamed. In addition to looking rather unattractive, it can also feel quite unpleasant.

The reason that skin conditions such as eczema are irritated in the winter is that the skin can become incredibly dehydrated from both the cold weather outside and the heated air inside. When the skin is dehydrated, pre-existing conditions can become worse and new skin conditions can arise. Winter itch often affects the lower legs but can also affect the skin in the underarm area as well.

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The best ways to treat winter itch are to avoid scratching the skin that has been affected by the condition and to moisturize the area frequently. There are a number of emollients such as lotions, moisturizers, balms, and salves that can be used on the affected area. It is recommended to apply emollient to the skin after bathing or showering. The warmth of the water softens the skin and makes it easier for the skin to absorb the hydrating ingredients in the emollient. Bathing in lukewarm water instead of hot water is recommended for those who are suffering from winter itch and plan to treat the skin with an emollient after the bath or shower.

There are many lotions and balms on the market that can be used to treat winter itch, and they vary in price. You can rehydrate your skin without spending much money at all by using mineral oil or plain petroleum jelly. These products are much less expensive than brand-name moisturizers and usually work just as well, if not better.

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Discuss this Article

Pippinwhite
Post 1

Since I live in Alabama, I don't know if I have true winter itch, but when it gets cold and stays cold, our air dries out and I get awfully itchy. This has been a cold winter, and I've been itching like crazy. My back and stomach have been especially sensitive. I've been using Aveeno lotion and that really helps, but I am looking for warmer weather so I can stop itching. It's been driving me nuts this winter.

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