What is Winter Itch?

During the winter, cold temperatures, low humidity, and high winds wear away at the natural oils and dead skin cells in the outer layer of your skin that preserves moisture content. This, combined with other potential factors such as a sensitivity to soaps and detergents, pre-existing skin conditions, infections, allergies to materials such as latex, sunburns, and stress or fatigue, may cause you to develop a rash sometimes referred to as “winter itch.”

Winter itch may cause similar symptoms to other types of rashes, such as redness, swelling, flaking, blisters, and itchiness. It most often occurs on the arms, legs, or hands, as these are most often exposed to cold air, but it can also develop anywhere on your body.

Certain soaps and moisturizing products may be helpful for treating winter itch. These include:

  • Skin cream or lotion
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Natural oils
  • Oatmeal soap or baths
  • Topical cortisone cream

Developing winter itch may indicate the need to make certain lifestyle changes during periods of cold weather to protect your skin. A few steps you can take to prevent the occurrence of a rash during the winter include:

Choosing clothes with less irritating materials: Clothes made from natural breathable fibers such as cotton and hemp may reduce skin irritation and overheating, both of which may contribute to an increased risk of developing a rash.

Wear appropriate protective clothing: Gloves, scarves, hats, and long socks can all go a long way to protecting skin that may be vulnerable to cold air and preventing rashes from developing in these areas.

Bathing less often: During the winter, overly frequent bathing can wear away at your skin’s natural outer layer of oils and dead skin cells, which build up more slowly during the winter due to decreased sweating. You may find it helpful to shower or bathe every other day, lathering up as little as possible and reducing the amount of hot water you use.

If you’re looking for the right treatment for a rash, you can schedule an appointment with a dermatologist at Flushing Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center by calling (718) 670-5486.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.