The awful winter itch! Even those without eczema or psoriasis know the horrible feeling of being overheated, itchy and uncomfortable, wrapped up in winter woollies or discarding them as soon as you’re indoors and getting cooked by the central heating!
But can the winter clothes you’re wearing actually trigger flare-ups of eczema, dermatitis or psoriasis? Sadly, it seems that they can.
Here are our seven top tips for keeping the winter woolly itch under control.
1. Choose The Right Fabric
Everyone is different, and some people can tolerate synthetics that others would react to, but the rule of thumb with eczema is that natural cotton, silk and bamboo are the least likely culprits in clothes-related flare-ups. Polyester and other synthetics are usually a no-no for sensitive skin but even natural fibres such as wool, linen and hemp can be too rough or allergenic for some to bear. Think soft, think slinky!
2. Keep Things Loose & Light
Tight or heavy clothes rubbing against delicate or inflamed skin can exacerbate symptoms - and once you feel the urge to itch you can end up breaking skin and causing more damage.
Some ideas for cool, loose outfits include: dresses without itchy waistbands; dungarees; trousers sized-up one size; long-sleeved tops; long, loose, cotton leggings; tunics and smock tops; pinafore dresses; knee-socks rather than tights.
3. Don’t Overheat Yourself
Sweating can cause flare-ups, not just because raised temperatures can cause prickly heat sensations but also because the salts t sweat leaves on the skin act as irritants. Both have the same unfortunate result: inflammation and itching. So keep things as cool as possible whether you’re inside or out; wearing thin, cool, light clothes in easily removable or added-to layers is a good idea.
4. Pre-Wash Clothes in Hypoallergenic Detergent
When you wear new (or indeed secondhand) clothes for the first time, give them a wash (in whatever detergent doesn’t flare you up) first, to remove dyes, pesticides, formaldehyde and other irritants.
5. Be Careful of Extras!
Labels, glittery threads, hems, ribbons, seams and synthetics can all make a perfectly wearable cotton top into a nightmare! If your toddler suffers from eczema, then be aware of all the potential irritants in their outfits; nowadays you should be able to find seamfree, glitter-free clothing with labels sewn on the outside or printed onto the fabric.
Parents might need to remind relatives about the problems with clothes if they’re buying presents for their nieces and nephews; it’s so disappointing for a four year old to get a pretty sparkly outfit that they can’t wear because it’ll flare up their eczema.
6. Change/Wash Clothes Often
The downside of lovely, smooth, natural cotton is that it can harbour microbes - and the last thing you want is an infection to add to the misery. Change clothes regularly, especially if you’ve exercised or got hot in them, or if you’re using oily emollients, and wash them at the hottest setting in hypoallergenic detergent.
7. Go Hi Tech!
Check out the range of synthetic or modified natural fabrics available to eczema sufferers these days, many of them taking their lead from fabrics made for medical purposes. You can find clothes permeated by antibacterials; baby sleepsuits woven with silver to beat infections; specially designed fabrics to act almost as if they were emollients; hypoallergenic modified silk or cotton.
Thanks to Charlotte Leanne Brothwood, Karen Reekie, Maria Marziaoli, Simone Ivatts, Rachel Robinson, Jill Dowding-Walker for their help in writing this blog.