Skip to main content
Start your visit now

Cold air making you itch? It might be winter rash.

What is winter rash?

With brutal winter weather impacting much of the country, our online dermatologists are seeing a spike in patients seeking relief from a dry, itchy, red rash. It turns out, icy roads and snowy sidewalks aren’t the only side effects of arctic storms. Winter rash, a condition caused when sensitive skin reacts to extreme temperatures, is another way wild weather can ruin your day.

Different types of winter rashes

Typically, winter rash is caused by a chronic condition or allergy flaring in response to sudden changes in the environment - like walking out of a 72-degree house into a 23-degree snowstorm then settling into a 65-degree car.

Eczema: Changing temperatures and dry air cause eczema to flare. When temperatures take massive nosedives, and the heaters are turned on full-blast, things can get itchy real quick.

Rosacea: Wind and cold are the archenemies of rosacea-prone skin. Both can trigger a pretty significant flare on their own. However, the scarf you’re using to block the elements may be leaving you red-in-the-face, too. Rough fabrics like wool can cause irritation and inflammation, also.

Cold urticaria (hives): Patients with cold urticaria develop red welts or a raised, itchy rash that appears immediately after exposure to the cold. Patients with more severe forms of the disorder may feel faint or have difficulty breathing when exposed to freezing temperatures.

Note: If you experience faintness or difficulty breathing, get emergency care immediately.

How do I stop the itch of a winter rash?

Restoring your natural moisture barrier and blocking out the cold are essential to stopping winter rashes for good.

  • Apply lotion frequently. A thick cream is preferable this time of year. With added oils, these products are healing and moisturizing.
  • Take short, warm showers - not long hot showers. While the temptation to defrost is intense, high temperatures and prolonged exposure to water will further irritate sensitive skin.
  • Bundle up. Mittens, gloves, face masks, scarves, and puffy coats will protect skin from the elements. However, you may wish to avoid direct contact between rashes and wool. While wool is excellent at keeping in heat, it’s also very irritating to already damaged skin.
  • Get steamy with a humidifier. Central heating dries out the air. Dry air leads to dry skin. Dry skin is itchy skin. It’s a good idea to have one in the rooms where you spend most of your time, like your home office and bedroom.
  • Talk to an online dermatologist. In the interest of limiting your exposure to bad weather (and the convenience of getting help from your phone), log in to DermatologistOnCall and consult a doctor about your seasonal skin problem. This is especially true if you can’t seem to stop scratching.

Whether your rash is the result of cold weather, stress, or another trigger, DermatologistOnCall is here to help. You can start a visit at any time - no appointment needed. Since there’s no wait to submit your visit, you can capture images of your symptoms when they peak and have a diagnosis and treatment plan quickly and conveniently.