Holidays, climate and atopic eczema
In our protocol for assessing atopic eczema for The Combined Approach, we ask about trigger factors, those circumstances that seem to cause eczema to flare up, as well as those that are associated with a reduction in the inflammation. The pattern reported varies from person to person.
Some factors like temperature, humidity, climate, season and weather are clearly inter-related. Going away on a vacation will often involve several of these. Many say cold, dry winter weather is less friendly, compared to the warmer summer months. They often add that a summer holiday by the sea is good for their eczema.
But it is very striking that many report it is changes in temperature that are provocative, both on a particular occasion, and from one day to the next.
The change of going away on holiday from what one is used to, away to a different climate, may be important if the vacation is going to be a success.
Getting away to a hotter or a colder place - for the beach and swimming in the sea, or for snow and skiing - are popular for those who can afford it, and who are otherwise used to living in temperate climates. But it is more than a change in the temperature that is important for those with atopic eczema. With the change in temperature often comes a change in humidity.
Generally, the hotter the weather, the more humid it can get, and the colder it is, the drier. This is because the amount of water vapour that air can contain depends on the air temperature. How much water is available is also important - see below!
With atopic eczema, very humid is not so good, even if it means moisturiser can be used less frequently. Very humid means it can be hard to sweat and cool off and using too much emollient may make matters worse. The grease on the skin not only prevents skin drying, it can also prevents heat loss. A heat rash, also called prickly heat, or miliari, can follow, due to blocked sweat ducts. This itchy rash may occur a few days after the holiday starts, but sometimes not until a while after a return from such a trip.
On the other hand, the very dry air of the mountains on a skiing holiday will dry the skin very quickly, and cause eczema to flare up. Flare-ups on a skiing trip can be prevented by more frequent use of moisturiser.
Air travel, and air conditioned hotel rooms are both unfriendly for those with eczema: more frequent use of moisturiser can prevent problems.
Interestingly the heat of the desert is equally drying, as the humidity here is low. After all, that’s why there is a desert! The skin is affected in the same way as the earth - it dries out. May not be a good place to be with atopic eczema.
The climate that suits most with atopic eczema is neither too hot, nor too cold, and where the humidity is neither too high, nor too low. If being on holiday means going somewhere different - be prepared: the climate may be different to what you are used to. Whilst it is having a change that is important about getting away, to keep the skin happy, a change in moisturising routine may also be required.