A winter rash is a region of irritated skin, usually occurring during the cold season. It is often due to dry skin. The condition is prevalent and often recurs yearly. Most who reside in cold climates have experienced the rash at some point in life.
What are the signs?
A winter rash is characterized by the following:
The rash might be localized in one site of the body, usually in the arms, legs or hands. In some cases, it spreads throughout the body.
What are the causes?
The outer skin layer contains natural oils and dead skin cells that retain water within the skin to keep the skin soft, smooth and moisturized.
Cold temperatures can affect the skin. High winds, cold air and low humidity can strip the skin of moisture. Increasing the warmth and taking hot showers can also cause the same effect. These harsh situations cause the loss of natural oils from the skin, thus leading to a winter rash.
Other causes of the rash include:
- Bacterial infection
- Sensitivity to deodorizing soaps, antibacterial soaps, detergents or other chemicals
- Viral infection
- Certain skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis
- Latex allergy
Management of a winter rash
The commonly used treatment options for a winter rash include:
- Moisturizers – these are used as the initial defense against a winter rash since they lock in moisture to the skin. A moisturizer must be applied several times throughout the day, especially after hand washing and bathing.
- Petroleum jelly – this functions as a barrier to help lock in moisture into the skin.
- Natural oils such as coconut oil and olive oil – these helps soothe irritated skin and restore moisture. They can be applied as necessary.
- Vegetable shortening – this is used for dry skin since its dense oil component aids in restoring moisture. It can be applied after a bath or before going to bed.
- Oatmeal soap and baths – these can also help soothe the skin.
- Milk bath – soaking in a warm bath with milk for around 10 minutes can soothe itchy skin caused by a winter rash
- Topical cortisone creams – the prescription or over-the-counter variants help lessen the itchiness, redness and inflammation.
Most cases of winter rash settle with home remedies, lifestyle changes and over-the-counter treatments.