Winter months can bring on the itch as cold weather and indoor heat dry out the skin. It's possible, suggests Chicago allergist, Brian Rotskoff, MD of Clarity Allergy Center, that your winter itch could be caused by more than just the weather. For some people itchy, dry skin is just that, but for others it can be a symptom of atopic dermatitis (eczema), contact dermatitis, or hives (urticaria). Before stocking up on skin soothers, Dr. Rotskoff suggests getting a better handle on your exact condition. His practice specializes in allergy skin testing, as well as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), allergy drops/allergy shots, asthma, childhood nasal allergies, and the full range of sinus and allergic conditions.
"Chronic skin rashes can be very frustrating, not to mention uncomfortable," sympathizes Dr. Rotskoff. "With patch testing, I can isolate potential allergens that may be causing chronic eczema or contact dermatitis. If the results are positive, I help patients create avoidance plans to minimize their exposure and reduce future outbreaks. This is especially important for children at risk of angioedema."
Skin testing by an allergy expert is the best route to long-term skin solutions, but Dr. Rotskoff offers up these general guidelines for understanding your skin condition.
What is contact dermatitis?
Chronic rash that occurs as the result of physical contact with an allergen
Typically an allergy to metals, fragrances, plants, and cosmetics/perfumes
What is atopic dermatitis (eczema)?
A more persistent type of eczema
Chronic rash that appears on the limbs, scalp, neck, and cheeks
Aggravated by environmental allergens and food allergens, as well as stress and heat
Most common in children, with onset around age 5
Often outgrown by adolescence
What are hives (urticaria)?
A rash that migrates from one area of the body to another within hours
Can be short-term (less than 6 weeks) or chronic (months or years)
Sometimes accompanied by angioedema (swelling), wheezing, and shortness-of-breath
Can be idiopathic (spontaneous) or autoimmune (reaction-based)
More complex to diagnose because may or may not be allergen-based
"Whether a patient's skin condition is linked to allergies or not, there are several things that can be done to limit irritation and improve comfort," adds Dr. Rotskoff. "Daily strategies like applying thick moisturizers after bathing, using hypoallergenic detergent, and keeping your house temperature below 76 degrees can help. It's best to avoid long, hot baths or showers, harsh soaps, and fragranced or perfumed products."
As appropriate, Dr. Rotskoff recommends anti-histamines or topical prescriptions medications to reduce inflammation and ease symptoms. Some asthma medications and even acid reflux products can help manage outbreaks of hives.
To prep your skin for the harsh season ahead, contact Brian Rotskoff, MD, www.ClarityAllergyCenter.com or 773-877-3500. Clarity Allergy Center offices are located in Chicago, North Chicago, and Arlington Heights, short distances from Lincolnwood, IL, Skokie, IL, Park Ridge, IL, Morton Grove, IL, and Niles, IL, Mount Prospect, IL, Palatine, IL, Elk Grove, IL, Buffalo Grove, IL, Bartlett, IL, Lake Zurich, IL, Schaumburg, IL, and Elgin, IL.
Clarity Allergy Center Office Locations and Contact Details:
3000 N. Halsted St, Suite 611
Chicago, Illinois 60657
North Chicago Office:
4801 W. Peterson Avenue, Suite 306
Chicago, Illinois 60646
Arlington Heights Office:
125 South Wilke Road, Suite 100
Arlington Heights, Illinois 60005