For many people with psoriasis, fall and winter bring about cold temperatures and worsening psoriasis symptoms. These two seasons—due to weather conditions, reduced daylight hours, and the fact that they coincidence with three widely celebrated holidays—are known for triggering disease symptoms and requiring stronger treatments.
According a study reported in 2015 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, most people with psoriasis have clearer skin in the summer months and during the winter months, they tend to experience moderate to severe symptoms. The National Psoriasis Foundation also notes improvement during the summer months is due to the greater availability of natural ultraviolet (UV) light.
In the fall and winter months, a combination of dry air and colder temperatures can make psoriasis symptoms worse. Further, warmer, heavier clothing can cause sensitive skin to be itchier and more irritated.
But the colder weather doesn’t mean you have to tough out flare-ups and worsening symptoms until spring. Here is what you need to know about managing psoriasis during the fall and winter months.
Take Short Showers and Warm Baths
Long, hot showers can remove moisture from skin so when you shower, make sure you use warm water only and that showers are just long enough to wash up and rinse off soap.
Taking baths can be more relaxing. Use natural oil, finely ground oatmeal, Dead Sea salts, or Epsom salts in a warm bath. Soak for 15 minutes to help remove dead scales, soothe itching and burning, and to unwind. Apply a moisturizer or lotion right away to lock water in.
Turn Down the Heat
Since the heat can be drying, it might be a good idea to turn it down. The cooler the air in your home is, the more moisture there is, which is the best option for your skin. Try using a humidifier, especially in the bedroom. Socks and a heavy blanket can keep you warm at night.
A humidifier is a device that adds moisture to the air. During the colder months, heating units that pump hot, dry air can make your skin dry, itchy and flaky. In addition, outside cold air can also dry skin.
Using a humidifier can add moisture to indoor air and reduce dry, cracked skin.
Cold weather and wind can irritate skin and trigger psoriasis flare-ups. A flare-up is a period where psoriasis symptoms are exacerbated. Bundle up in soft clothing, such as a soft scarf, hat, or gloves to protect exposed areas of skin when outdoors. Choose fabrics that are less likely to bother your skin. Fabrics such as wool and denim can irritate skin, whereas cotton is gentler on your skin. Dress in layers you can quickly remove if you get hot, as sweating can worsen psoriasis.
Try Light Therapy
Your healthcare provider can prescribe a UV light therapy treatment during the fall and winter months. People who undergo light therapy expose their skin to UV light on a regular basis, either using a light therapy machine at home or having treatments done at their practitioner’s office.
Ultraviolet B (UVB) seems to work best for treating psoriasis treatment. UVB light is present in natural sunlight and treatments work by penetrating the skin and slowing down their growth. Other types of light therapy can help manage symptoms, but they may pose a higher risk for skin cancer.
Anything that affects your immune system can affect psoriasis. Therefore, it is important for you to work on staying healthy. This involves getting plenty of rest, washing your hands often, and minimizing stress to avoid getting sick during cold and flu season, which starts in late fall and goes into early spring.
You can get a flu shot as long you are not in the middle of a psoriasis flare-up. Anyone treating with biologics for psoriasis or another health condition should not get a live vaccine.
You can get the flu shot, but not the flu spray as it is a live vaccine.
The fall and winter holidays bring about cheer and time with loved ones, but they can also bring about stress, which can make psoriasis flare up. In order to reduce the effect stress has on you during the cooler weather months, plan to make time to relax.
Try a massage or deep breathing. A spa treatment can help to moisturize skin and improve your mood. Exercise can also relieve stress and reduce the potential for a flare-up.
In addition to stress, psoriasis can make you feel depressed. And less light during the fall and winter months can cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The Cleveland Clinic reports approximately half a million people in the United States suffer from SAD and from 10% to 20% of the American population suffers from milder forms of SAD.
If you find you are feeling sad often, especially during the fall and winter months, talk to your healthcare provider. Light therapy or antidepressant medicine may help lift your mood.
It is important to keep skin moist to ease itchiness and redness and heal psoriasis patches. Try thicker creams to help lock moisture into the skin. Refrigerating creams keeps them cold so they can calm burning and itching. Use moisturizing soaps when showering and washing hands. Choose fragrance-free and alcohol-free products to avoid allergic reactions and inflamed skin.
Eat and Drink Healthily
Another important step in managing psoriasis is to eat healthily. While there is no set diet for psoriasis, following a well-balanced and nutritious diet can help reduce inflammation and keep you healthy overall. And with the fall and winter holidays, you may want to avoid overindulging in food and alcohol. Alcohol, in particular, is associated with worsening of psoriasis. Alcohol can also reduce the effectiveness of psoriasis medications, so check with your healthcare provider before you indulge in alcoholic beverages while celebrating during the holidays.
Reassess Your Treatment Plan
If you feel like your psoriasis is getting worse during the fall and winter months, make an appointment with your practitioner to reassess your treatment plan. Your healthcare provider can decide whether you need topical or systemic treatments (or both) for keeping psoriasis managed. Phototherapy and complementary treatments—such as meditation, acupuncture, and curcumin supplements—can be helpful additions to your treatment plan.
A Word From Get Meds Info
No matter the season, psoriasis is a chronic condition, which means you will need to manage it all year. One of the most important ways to manage psoriasis is by following the treatment plan your healthcare provider has prescribed for you. Even if you feel as if your symptoms are managed, you shouldn’t skip medications, as this can trigger a flare-up or treatments to stop working for you.