For the last couple of years, I've suffered from skin eczema, particularly over the winter months where the cold, dry air exposes my already vulnerable skin to a greater potential of outbreak.
In the three years it's really affected me, this has been the coldest winter we've had. I'm happy to say, though, that it's also been the winter that has had the least impact on me. I think I've finally found balance!
The first year I had problems, there was a spot next to my mouth that got very red, very raw, and very itchy. I spent the first few weeks in denial, figuring it would just go away. I finally went to my family doctor at the time, who gave me a cream that only seemed to aggravate the issue. He then referred me to a dermatologist. As it was my first time ever visiting a dermatologist, I figured maybe it was normal that it took quite a few visits to get seemingly nowhere. He had me try two other creams (neither of which worked particularly well), he made me get skin patch testing to see if any particular chemicals might be causing it (inconclusive), and recommended that I change many of the personal hygiene products I used.
Eventually, the problem faded as the weather warmed up, but last year, the problem returned. In addition to the problem near my mouth, I also had issues around my eye. I tried the original dermatologist again, but eventually was unsatisfied as I felt we were going nowhere. I went to a different dermatologist, and he was much more helpful. He prescribed a different cream, which seemed to get me through the season. I did have a couple of outbreaks but they weren't as severe and didn't last as long as they had before. I felt we'd made progress. He also suggested I moisturize, which is something I did now and then, but never took to seriously.
The summer came and went and this past winter hit. Immediately, I felt like this was going to be a tough winter as I immediately had the rash around my eyes return, as well as part of one hand. After doing some homework and talking to various people, I decided to focus this season on moisturizing. I apply Eucerin multiple times a day over most of my face, hands, arms, and other exposed body parts. I found that this wasn't good around my eyes as it caused tears, so additional research had me apply Vaseline. I have had a couple of very minor outbreaks, but nothing like in years past, and the spot near my mouth (which was the biggest problem for me because I was very self-conscious about it) has only had two minor outbreaks. In both of those cases, I apply the cream that I was previously prescribed, put on extra applications of the moisturizer, and the problem has always gone away in less than 24 hours, whereas I'd have flare-ups that would last days and days in the past.
I think the moisturizing is key. I wish I had thought of something so simple, and it amazes me that the original dermatologist never recommended this. I truly believe that he was a quack in every sense of the term.
For as cold a winter as it's been (we've had multiple spells where frigid temperatures last for days on end), I've been very happy at how I've been able to keep it under control. I think that had these temperatures hit in the previous two winters (both which were much milder), I really would have been in trouble. It gives me hope as I sort of have come to the realization that this will probably be something I have to live with moving forward.