Don’t let dry skin ruin Colorado winter | CraigDailyPress.com

Don’t let dry skin ruin Colorado winter

Colorado’s dry air can wreak havoc on skin, lips

By Lauren Glendenning Brought to you by Memorial Regional Health

If you suffer from dry skin and chapped lips, there's a chance your daily habits could be worsening your symptoms.

Colorado's dry air means dry skin is a common problem here. Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to combat skin problems that can arise from dry air, said Carol Bolt, a Memorial Regional Health physician assistant with extensive dermatology training and practice.

"People sometimes forget that in the winter, they're not drinking enough fluid," she said. "One thing I think that helps skin issues, above and beyond, is to stay really well hydrated."

Chronic eczema, a condition that makes skin red and itchy, is one extreme form of a skin problem or rash related to dry skin. Chapped lips are a more widespread condition.

Bolt said many flavored chapsticks cause people to lick their lips more frequently, which makes them more inflamed.

"Dry lips and irritated lips start from being dehydrated," Bolt said.

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Sun exposure

Winter on the East Coast or in the Pacific Northwest typically means gray, gloomy days. In Colorado, sunny days are the norm during winter months. Snow storms might blow in and deliver the goods for skiers and snowboarders, but the skies often clear to deliver sunshine, as well.

At more than 6,000 feet in elevation, Craig residents also have to think about the sun's powerful ultraviolet radiation, or rays. Ultraviolet exposure is greater at higher altitudes.

"At elevation, people can get sunburns in the winter," Bolt said. "People need to be wearing sunscreen, especially if you're spending an afternoon on the mountain."

Eczema

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic condition that can flare up in low humidity. Eczema is long-lasting and tends to flare up periodically, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Bolt said allergies can often trigger eczema, making it worse in the spring and fall when more allergens are in the air. However, dry skin is also a trigger, she said.

The worst thing a person with eczema can do is scratch the affected area. Someone who doesn't scratch could have minimal symptoms, while a person who scratches their eczema could look disfigured, she said.

It's important to manage the triggers of dry, itchy skin by moisturizing and managing allergies.

"Eczema tends to come up in areas where we can reach and scratch such as the lower back, forearms, lower legs and face," Bolt said. "We'll see parts of the back where someone can't get around to reach it and it looks fine, which is another testament that scratching makes it worse."

Common symptoms of eczema

  • Dry skin
  • Itching, which may be severe, especially at night
  • Red to brownish-gray patches, especially on hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, upper chest, eyelids, inside the bend of the elbows and knees, and in infants, the face and scalp
  • Small, raised bumps, which may leak fluid and crust over when scratched
  • Thickened, cracked, scaly skin
  • Raw, sensitive, swollen skin from scratching.

See a doctor if these symptoms are affecting sleep and daily activities and when home remedies do not improve the condition. Signs of infection include red streaks, pus and yellow scabs.

Source: The Mayo Clinic