Q: How do I stop my eczema getting worse when I’m training outdoors?

This time of year it is at its worst, and no matter how much I moisturise, my skin still dries out and becomes sore when I’m out in the cold. I do try to keep my skin as covered and protected as best I can, but it is the areas on my face which are causing me most trouble.

Do you have any suggestions that may help?

Jo Standen, Cardiff

A: You’re not alone here. Eczema, also known as ‘dermatitis’, is a common dry skin condition, which tends to be at its worst this time of year.

Understanding more about the skin and what it does, helps us manage the condition. Our skin is our protection from the elements, helping us maintain our body temperature and prevent harmful bacteria entering our bodies.

Healthy skin is plumped full of water, creating a firm protective barrier with no gaps. In eczema, the skin is dry, as it is less able to retain water. As a result, it cracks and breaks down more easily, becoming sore and inflamed.

Like most conditions, eczema can vary in it severity, from intermittent mild flare-ups to debilitating chronic daily symptoms. Triggers will vary from person to person, but this time of year when the weather is cold, symptoms are often at their worst.

Sweat can also be a trigger. The salt in sweat can dehydrate the skin, causing soreness and irritation.

Here are some top tips to help settle your symptoms, and improve your skin’s overall health:

  • Moisturise before and after exercise. Use a lighter application of ointment a good hour before you run, allowing time for it to absorb fully.
  • Choose 100% cotton clothing. Avoid synthetic fabrics and stick to looser garments to avoid rubbing.
  • Protect you exposed bits. It is difficult and not practical to cover up your face when you run, but hats and gloves should be an essential.
  • Hydrate. This should go without saying, but hydrating shouldn’t just come from the outside application of creams. Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise.
  • Avoid temperature extremes. It is tempting to hop into a hot shower after a run, but sudden changes in temperature can trigger your eczema to flare. Gradually increase and decrease the shower temperature. As a take home point, the benefits of exercise in eczema are clear.

They improve physical and mental wellbeing and reduce stress, which, in turn, helps control eczema. So if these measures don’t help control it, don’t give up. Have a chat with your GP as to what more can be done.

Health: Dr Yvette Bridnle is a General Practitioner in Chester. She is trained in women’s health and has a keen interest in running, fitness well-being, weight control and nutrition.

She enjoys running with her local group and entering races for charity.