What could cause itchy, red rashes only after travelling to a country with cold weather, and how can it be treated? (photo)

Doctor's Answers 1

Photo of Dr Christopher Lim
Dr Christopher Lim

General Practitioner

Hello there, this is quite a good question. Based on the appearance of the skin shown in the pictures, there is visible dryness of the skin with some overlying redness which is resulting from scratching.

This is a common issue for Singaporeans who travel from our humid climate to a comparatively cold and dry country. Especially for travellers who have recently returned from the Northern hemisphere (e.g USA, Europe, Japan, China).

The sudden relative drop in humidity results in a drying of the skin and a resultant itching. Personally, I find that it tends to occur more on the legs than the upper body, and based on the photos it appears that your calves are the affected region.

This is because we tend to bundle up with cold clothing covering the upper body, with only a single layer covering the legs, allowing the skin over the legs to dry out more than the trunk or the arms. This is made worse each time we have a bath because we would tend to crank up the heat while having a long shower to fight the cold, resulting in further dehydration of the skin.

Depending on the degree of dryness, any scratching as a result of the itch as well as any underlying skin conditions (e.g. eczema) the appearance of the skin may vary. However, treatment would be the same regardless.

I would advise the following:

1. Moisturise: Using a fragrance free moisturiser (to avoid further irritation to skin), apply at least twice a day or any time when skin is dry. Even better if applied while skin is slightly damp after a bath.

2. Stop scratching: An itch can be maddening. However continued scratching can worsen itching, cause breaks to skin, and potentially introduce bacteria and lead to a skin infection.

3. If needed, try an antihistamine to control the itch.

4. Showertime: Take shorter showers and avoid piping hot water, prolonged exposure can worsen dry skin. Also, certain soaps, especially those with alot of lather can strip the skin of moisture and worsen itch.

Once these are all in place, the itch should improve within 2 weeks. If your skin continues to be itchy or you have any redness/swelling/pain over the skin, you may need to see a doctor for further medical attention who may prescribe antihistamines/steroid creams for a short period of time.

I hope this was helpful for you! Hope your skin gets better soon.

Best Regards
Dr Chris Lim

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