Certain climates, such as those with extreme hot or cold temperatures or overly dry or humid weather, may irritate eczema-prone skin, causing eczema flare-ups or worsening existing eczema.

Eczema is a common skin condition that can cause skin inflammation, dryness, and itchiness. However, people living in extreme climates can take steps to help manage their eczema.

This article outlines five different types of climate and their associated weather types and considers how each may affect eczema-prone skin.

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As the United Kingdom’s Meteorological Office (Met Office) explains, tropical climates are close to the equator. They have high temperatures and rainfall, causing high humidity levels. Areas that fall into this region include:

  • South America
  • Africa
  • South East Asia

Increased humidity can lead to increased sweating. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes that dried sweat can leave a salty residue on the skin, which may cause itching and other symptoms.

Managing eczema in a tropical climate

In tropical climates, the key to managing eczema is to regulate body temperature as much as possible. Tips include:

  • staying in the shade when outdoors
  • wearing loose, cotton or linen clothing
  • using air conditioning indoors to prevent sweating and overheating
  • taking a cool shower to rinse off sweat before it dries on the skin

People in tropical climates also need to protect their skin from the sun.

The AAD recommends applying a physical sunscreen containing the minerals zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. In comparison with chemical sunscreens, these feel cooler on the skin and cause less irritation.

Learn more about eczema and the sun.

Dry climates lie immediately to the north and south of the tropical zone. These areas mainly consist of desert landscapes. They have cloudless skies almost year-round, resulting in extremely dry weather.

In the deserts, daytime temperatures are some of the hottest on Earth, while nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) notes that this type of dry, dusty air may worsen eczema symptoms in some people.

Managing eczema in a dry climate

People in a dry climate can take the following steps to help manage their eczema:

  • drinking plenty of water to help prevent dehydration and ensuring adequate moisture levels in the skin
  • using an indoor humidifier to help restore moisture levels in the air
  • using an indoor air purifier to help filter dust and other potential skin irritants from the air
  • wearing a physical sunscreen during the day to prevent sunburn and skin irritation
  • wearing a wide-brimmed hat to help protect facial skin from the sun
  • wearing light-colored fabrics to help reflect the sun’s rays

According to the Met Office, temperate zones are those that, during their coldest months, have an average monthly temperature of between 32°F (0°C) and 64.4°F (18°C), with at least 1 month averaging above 50°F (10°C).

The weather in temperate climates varies according to prevailing weather patterns and local topographical features.

Areas with temperate climates include:

  • western and eastern regions of the United States
  • most of Western Europe
  • Eastern China

Temperate climates have the least extreme weather, so they tend to suit people with eczema better. Nonetheless, those living in such climates may develop eczema flares corresponding to seasonal weather changes.

Managing eczema in a temperate climate

As the AAD explains, some people with eczema notice their symptoms flare in winter, while others see them flare in summer.

Winter flares can develop due to exposure to dry air from harsh winds and indoor heating. Conversely, summer flares can occur due to sweating and increased exposure to sunlight.

Some tips for managing eczema in the summer months include:

  • staying indoors or in the shade when the sun’s rays are strongest — between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • avoiding areas with water, snow, and sand, as these reflect the sun’s rays, increasing the risk of sunburn
  • wearing sun-protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat
  • applying a mineral sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapplying it every 2 hours and after swimming and sweating

Some tips for managing eczema in the winter months include:

  • bathing in warm water rather than hot water to avoid drying out the skin
  • protecting the hands, feet, and face from the elements when outdoors
  • wearing extra clothing indoors instead of lighting a fire or turning up the heating, as the latter can worsen skin dryness

Continental climates are similar to temperate climates but are further inland. Because these areas are farther from the ocean and its temperature-regulating effects, they experience greater extremes in weather.

Parts of the world with continental climates include North America and Eurasia.

According to the National Eczema Association, extreme hot or cold temperatures or humidity can trigger eczema or worsen an existing flare.

Managing eczema in a continental climate

The key to managing eczema in a continental climate is to avoid exposing the skin to extremes in temperature. Some tips include:

  • Protecting exposed skin: Whether in extreme cold or extreme heat, people with eczema need to protect their skin from the elements. This may mean:
    • wearing a hat, scarf, and gloves in cold weather
    • wearing a wide-brimmed hat and high-SPF sunscreen in summer
    • staying in the shade as much as possible in hot weather
  • Staying indoors during extreme temperatures: Wherever possible, people with eczema need to consider staying indoors during extreme hot or cold temperatures.
  • Avoiding rapid temperature changes: Rapid changes in skin temperature can aggravate eczema. Gradually warming up or cooling down is less likely to irritate eczema-prone skin.

Polar climates occur at or near the earth’s North and South Poles. These regions experience prolonged cold, with no months of the year averaging above 50°F (10°C).

A 2020 Chinese study found that both hot and cold temperatures caused an increase in outpatient visits for people with atopic dermatitis, but this increase was more prominent during low temperatures.

Similarly, the National Eczema Society (NES) notes that many people with eczema report worsening symptoms during cold weather.

Managing eczema in a polar climate

The NES provides the following tips for managing eczema in cold weather:

  • Applying suitable moisturizers: Applying intensive moisturizers, such as emollients or humectants, can help protect against the drying effects of extreme cold weather.
  • Applying emollients frequently: It is important to apply emollients frequently in cold weather, paying particular attention to areas of exposed skin, such as the face and hands.
  • Wearing soft, seam-free fabrics: Hats, scarves, and gloves comprising rough, scratchy material may irritate eczema-prone skin. Wherever possible, people need to opt for soft, seam-free materials.
  • Applying a topical steroid: If a doctor advises, a person can apply a topical steroid to help suppress an eczema flare-up.

Certain climates can aggravate eczema, causing or worsening flare-ups. Climates with extreme hot or cold temperatures can dry out the skin. Those with extreme humidity can cause excessive sweating and associated skin irritation.

People living in these climates can take extra steps to help manage their eczema. For example, people in hot climates can apply a high-SPF mineral sunscreen to help protect against sunburn without further aggravating their skin.

Whether a person experiences extreme hot or cold temperatures, they need to protect the skin from the elements. This may mean wearing a hat, scarf, and gloves in cold weather or a wide-brimmed hat and long, loose-fitting cotton clothing in hot weather.