Itchy Skin Related to Cold Weather

Itchiness is common when the cold, dry winter air saps moisture from your skin. Fortunately, weather-related dry skin isn't usually serious and is easily treated. It's also best to learn how to prevent itchy skin before the next bout of cold weather rolls around.

Cold air and low humidity can cause dry, itchy skin. (Image: Heike Kampe/iStock/Getty Images)

The Cold Facts

The top layer of skin is made of dead skin cells embedded in a mix of natural oils. The oils in this skin layer help keep water inside the body and prevent irritants and germs from entering. The dead cells and skin oils lock some water into the top layer, which keeps the skin soft and smooth. Cold, dry air can damage the top skin layer, allowing water in the skin to escape and causing small cracks that expose underlying cells to irritants and germs. The irritation may cause nerves in the skin to send "itch" signals to the brain.

The Itch Factor

Itching can range in severity from mildly irritating to extremely uncomfortable and disruptive. Weather-related itching may be accompanied by other dry skin symptoms, such as dullness, flakiness, roughness and more visible fine lines.

Home Treatment

Applying a hypoallergenic oil or cream should help reduce your itchy skin by keeping it moist. Apply the moisturizer three or four times per day and right after you wash your hands or shower, to seal in the water's moisture, recommends the American Academy of Family Physicians. If you tend to stand in a hot shower for 20 minutes or more, cut your shower time in half and turn down the heat to lukewarm. Use a moisturizing soap that contains little to no dye or fragrance to reduce irritation. You can also sprinkle some dry oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal product into a cool bath to soothe your skin.

When to See Your Doctor

Itchy and dry skin is at increased risk for infections. Your skin may be infected if it is swollen, red and warm, or if it is oozing fluid. See your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms or if your skin itch persists despite your best attempts to treat it with home remedies. Persistent itching may lead to prolonged scratching, which could cause permanent scarring or thick and leathery skin.

Medicated Treatment

Your doctor may recommend that you try an over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone cream for a week to reduce itching, or he may prescribe a stronger cream or an oral antihistamine medication if the 1 percent cream doesn't tame the itch.

Load comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.