Skip nav

This winter predicted to be a nightmare for those with skin conditions

cold weather is the single biggest trigger for eczema, followed by house dust mite and pets

With this winter set to be harsher than normal, national charity Allergy UK is warning of the impact the severe weather could have on our skin.

A new survey from Allergy UK has shown that cold weather is the single biggest trigger for eczema, followed by house dust mite and pets.

Dr Jean Emberlin, Scientific Director of Allergy UK, says early forecasts indicate that winter 2014 could bring misery for the nation: “Cold spells are likely to be extensive this winter. Strong anticyclonic conditions over or near the UK will block the mild westerly airflow and allow very cold air to flow over the UK from the North and East. The various forecast models are predicting that this winter will be colder than average with periods of snow.”

For thousands of eczema sufferers out there, the predicted cold weather could have potentially distressing effects.

Eczema affects up to 10% of adults and up to 20% of school children . The condition is characterised by inflammation of the skin with intense itching, reddening, dryness, scaling and sore broken skin.

The research found that 91% of those with eczema say their skin dries out more in winter, meaning up to 3.8 million UK adults are suffering during the colder months. While 77% say their skin itches more.

The condition affects people emotionally as well as physically. Over one in four (27%) of those with eczema said they are embarrassed by their skin and 22% have avoided social occasions because of their condition.

Allergy UK is highlighting how people suffering from skin conditions often mistakenly think staying indoors is the solution, but it’s not. One in five (20%) of those surveyed say they stay indoors when their skin is bad.

Maureen Jenkins, Clinical Director, Allergy UK says: “Cold weather is often the initial trigger of a skin condition, so the natural thing to do is retreat indoors and keep warm. But central heating and lack of ventilation will inevitably make skin conditions worse. The indoor environment creates an ideal breeding ground for house dust mites which in turn can exacerbate symptoms.”

Worryingly, almost a quarter (23%) of people with a skin condition have not seen a medical professional and say they just use moisturiser and products to relieve their symptoms. Allergy UK wants to see an end to people’s suffering.

Allergy UK has created a skin symptoms checker to coincide with Indoor Allergy Week (20th-26th October 2014). If you think you might be suffering from excessive skin dryness or itching, this resource could help provide the advice you need. Download the tool at www.allergyuk.org.

Winter doesn’t just affect those with a pre-existing skin condition. It has a wider impact, with 70% of UK adults saying their skin dries out in the cold months. The skin symptoms checker will provide invaluable advice.

If you are suffering from eczema, Allergy UK advises:

• Drinking plenty of water to hydrate the skin and keeping skin moisturised is essential
• Anyone suffering from eczema should use copious amounts of bland emollients twice or more a day
• Don’t use soaps and perfumed products
• Wear cotton clothing to keep skin cool and avoid synthetic fabrics

Allergy UK is raising awareness of how the nation can alleviate symptoms indoors and out. If you find your skin is worse indoors:

• Ventilation and ‘clean air’ is key to reducing the incidence of house dust mites and mould which can trigger itching. Open windows, use trickle vents in double glazing
• Dust surfaces using a microfibre cloth and use a high filtration vacuum cleaner regularly
• If ventilation is limited use an effective air purifier to help remove or reduce allergens
• Choose an anti-allergy mattress and bedding or enclose the mattress, duvet and pillows with allergy barrier covers which prevent the escape of the house dust mite allergen. Check the Allergy UK website for approved products
• Wash bed linen frequently at 60 degrees. Pull the duvet off the bed to air the mattress during the day as house dust mites hate light.

Allergy UK is the leading national medical charity providing advice, information and support to people with allergy and food intolerance. Allergy UK makes a difference through a dedicated helpline and network for sufferers.
-ends-
Indoor Allergy Week is supported by Fellowes and Sealy

Press enquiries:
Sophie Williams (PR & Communications Officer) Julie Doyle (Head of PR & Communications), Allergy UK. T: 01322 611 655, E: press@allergyuk.org

Notes to editors:
Allergy UK is the operational name of the British Allergy Foundation; the leading national medical charity providing advice, information and support to people with allergies and food intolerance. Allergy UK acts as the 'voice' of allergy sufferers, representing the views and needs of those affected by this multi organ disease. Allergy UK is a certified member of The Information Standard, which is an independent certification scheme for health and social care information supported by the Department of Health. For further information and to see a list of all certified members to the scheme, please visit: www.theinformationstandard.org

Allergy UK makes a difference by:
• Promoting wellbeing for people with allergy and food intolerance by providing information and support through our dedicated helpline
• Empowering people with allergy and food intolerance to manage their symptoms
• Enabling people with allergy and food intolerance to receive appropriate diagnosis and treatment through education of healthcare professionals and the provision of dedicated services
• Educating corporate bodies in the need for products suitable for allergy and food intolerance sufferers
• Conducting ongoing medical and social research into the causes and impact of allergy and food intolerance, and producing reports enabling us to lobby for better allergy services for sufferers.

Allergy UK research. Base sample 2005, 18+ UK adults, fieldwork carried out by Atomik Research, September 2014
Guidelines for the management of atopic eczema, Primary Care Dermatology Society and British Association of Dermatologists (2006 Updated October 2009)
Based on an estimated 42 million UK adults figure as supplied by Atomik Research. Eczema affects up to 10% of adults equating to (up to) 4.2million adults. 91% of eczema sufferers said their skin dries out in winter equating to (up to) 3.8million adults