Seasonal Changes Can Have Drastic Effects on Skin, Triggering Host of Rashes: Dermatologist Dr. Joshua Fox Discusses Impact of Temperature, Humidity on Health of our Largest Organ

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Seasonal changes can be seen on the skin, as weather factors like temperature and humidity facilitate the development or worsening of numerous common rashes. While some rashes can be triggered by anything from stress to medical treatments for an unrelated issue, there are quite a few that are linked closely with the weather.

It's no secret that the changing seasons can be felt by our skin: the first chill of an autumn breeze, the biting winter wind, the warm spring sun, or the humid swelter of an August afternoon. But seasonal changes can also be seen on the skin, as weather factors like temperature and humidity facilitate the development or worsening of numerous common rashes.

"The category of rashes is enormous, and many seem to the patient to erupt for no particular reason," notes Joshua Fox, MD, founder of Advanced Dermatology and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology. "While some rashes can be triggered by anything from stress to medical treatments for an unrelated issue, there are quite a few that are linked closely with the weather," Dr. Fox adds.

Specifically, temperature and humidity play key roles in the development or exacerbation of certain rashes. In addition, lifestyle changes that occur during the change in season can increase the prevalence of a number of skin outbreaks.

Top Three Fall and Winter Rashes
With temperatures cooling and humidity dropping, Dr. Fox advises that skin can become abnormally dry, resulting in flare-ups of a number of conditions. In addition, our return to usual routines at school and work during these seasons can contribute to an increase in skin rashes. He points out the following three most common skin ailments that can develop or worsen during the colder months:

1. Atopic Dermatitis, or Eczema, is a chronic hereditary skin disorder marked by patches of red, scaly, itchy or irritated skin that can appear in small patches on the hands and feet or in swaths across the entire body, including the face, neck, trunk, arms and legs. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 15 million Americans suffer from the physical and emotional discomforts of atopic eczema, many of whom develop their first symptoms during childhood. While dealing with eczema is a yearlong - indeed, lifelong - process for some patients, the cold temperatures and lack of humidity in winter can dry the skin, worsen symptoms and trigger more flare-ups. Xerosis is an eczema-like dryness of the skin caused by cold, dry conditions, but is not considered chronic or hereditary.

2. Rosacea is another chronic skin rash that primarily develops in adulthood, 35-45, and affects about 14 million Americans. Rosacea is most often seen on the face, neck, ears and scalp, and presents itself in red, flushed, blotchy outbreaks. These outbreaks can worsen in winter due to the drastic temperature fluctuations between outdoor and indoor air. In addition, Rosacea flare-ups can be caused by stress, which is common during the winter holiday season, and by emotional changes such as depression and seasonal affective disorder, which are prevalent during this time of year as well.

3. Viral Infections that can cause skin rashes may increase in the fall and winter months, as our lifestyles bring us back indoors at school or work to closer contact with others and poor ventilation in the classroom or office. The most prominent viral rash is caused by the varicella zoster virus, which first manifests itself as Chicken Pox - mostly in children. A preventive vaccine, Varivax, was introduced in the late 1990s, and has contributed to the drop in reported cases each year - which previously had held steady at more than 4 million, according to the AAD. The importance of immunization, Dr. Fox notes, is twofold. While the Chicken Pox rash itself is itchy, uncomfortable and highly contagious in children, once infected, the virus lays dormant in the nerves of the body, and can resurface decades later as a painful, debilitating disease called herpes zoster, or shingles. Fortunately, a preventive vaccine for shingles has been approved by the FDA as well, and is now available for patients over age 60 who previously had chicken pox.

Surviving the Season Rash-Free
Dr. Fox stresses that the key to getting through the fall and winter season while minimizing rash outbreaks is twofold. "Patients with chronic conditions like atopic eczema and rosacea know that prevention of flare-ups is an important aspect of disease management," he notes. Dr. Fox suggests that patients visit their dermatologists at the beginning of each new season for an evaluation of the skin's current condition, and to discuss any medications or preventive measures that should be taken during that season.

"It is important to follow a dermatologist's instructions even when skin looks clear and feels comfortable," he explains. In addition, when a skin rash does occur - particularly in people who have not experienced them before - Dr. Fox advises patients to see a licensed dermatologist immediately to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment regimen. "While some rashes are simply a result of skin irritation and will fade quickly with no lingering effects, others need to be diagnosed and medically managed for optimal skin health and comfort," he concludes.

Bio: Joshua L. Fox, M.D., F.A.A.D
Joshua L. Fox, M.D., is a leading authority in the field of dermatology with an expertise in skin cancer, cosmetic surgery, and laser procedures. As an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, Dr. Fox has been an expert resource on dermatologic topics for numerous televisions networks, including ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and Telemundo, talk shows, radio stations, newspapers and magazines. He has received multiple research and clinical awards, including recognition from Top Doctors, Who's Who, Journal of Dermatologic Surgery and Oncology, Community Service Award from the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, the prestigious Husic Award, as well as certificates of recognition for service from multiple hospitals, civic, educational and community organizations. Dr. Fox has authored and presented papers of his research on lasers, cosmetic procedures, stretch marks, scars, skin cancer, bug bites, photosensitivity and various rashes.

As founder and director of Advanced Dermatology and The Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery, Dr. Fox and associates have expanded the practice to one of the largest in dermatology, laser and cosmetic surgery, with more lasers than any hospital on the eastern coast. Dr. Fox is a graduate of the New York University Medical Center of Skin and Cancer and has been on the advisory board of the Psoriasis Foundation and National Rosacea Foundation, among others. He has also been a fellow of many societies, including the International Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, International Academy of Cosmetic Dermatology and the Society for Investigative Dermatology. Dr. Fox is the founder of the AAD Melanoma/Skin Cancer Prevention Program in Queens, New York (since 1987). Dr. Fox has been Chief of Dermatology of several major teaching hospitals, including Mt. Sinai Hospital of Queens and Jamaica Medical Center, and is currently on the staff of eight NY area hospitals. Dr. Fox is also the founder of New Age Skin Research Foundation at, committed to research and advocacy in dermatology. Dr. Fox and Advanced Dermatology and The Center for Laser & Cosmetic Surgery have been used as a resource center educating dermatologists, laser surgeons and cosmetic surgeons and others about lasers, cancer and cosmetic surgery.


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