WINTER ITCH(Xerotic Eczema)
WINTER ITCH (Xerotic Eczema)
DESCRIPTIONWinter itch refers to severely chapped skin that becomes cracked, fissured, and inflamed. The disorder is most common in winter. It is not contagious. The skin anywhere on the body can be involved, but it occurs most commonly on the legs.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSThe lesions are round plaques (flat-topped patches), 2cm to 5cm in diameter. The plaques are sometimes piled like flat discs on top of each other. They usually have very definite borders.
The plaques itch, burn, and sting.
Redness is most pronounced within the cracks and fissures which crisscross the plaque surface.
The plaques usually don't weep or become crusty.
Lesions on your child, with the following characteristics:
Insufficient oil on the skin's surface, which allows evaporation of water through the child's skin. Skin cells shrink so much that islands of cells begin to separate, causing cracks and fissures. Oil in the skin decreases with aging, excessive bathing, and excessive rubbing of the skin.
An environment with low humidity, especially in homes heated with hot-air fans in the winter.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEInstructions for your child to reduce water loss from the skin:
Bathe less frequently and use cool water.
Use soap sparingly.
Pat dry skin rather than rubbing it.
Apply skin lubricants to dry skin before chapped areas become inflamed.
Use humidifiers in rooms with very dry air.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSSecondary bacterial infection in the affected area.
Usually curable with treatment, but recurrence is common unless environmental conditions around your child can be controlled.
See instructions under
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE.
To apply lubricants: Use hand cream 4 to 8 times per day on the child's hands and twice daily on the trunk and extremities. When possible, the child should apply cream immediately after bathing--while the skin is wet--to trap additional moisture before evaporation occurs. Bath oils probably don't help.
MEDICATIONFor minor discomfort, use non-prescription skin lubricants, such as petroleum jelly, mineral oil, or cold cream.
For serious discomfort, your doctor may prescribe topical cortisone creams or lotions.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes. This problem is not contagious.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has severely chapped skin, and self-care does not relieve symptoms in 1 week.
Chapped skin becomes inflamed.