The time of year has come when losing your chapstick is almost as devastating as losing your phone, and you dread the dry hands that dish duty brings. Okay, maybe you milk the dry hands excuse to get out of doing the dishes but the point is, winter can be brutal on your skin. While a little dryness is normal, excessive dryness may be a sign of eczema. Here’s what you should know about preventing and treating eczema this winter.

What is eczema?

According to The National Institute of Health (NIH), eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a non-contagious dermatologic condition that results in irritated skin. Symptoms of eczema may include swollen, itchy, flaky or red patches of skin.

While eczema can be genetic, the condition can also be caused by excessive dryness, stress, and reactions to skin products or clothing.

The condition is particularly common in young children with 15 to 20 percent of children affected, according to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Since infants have particularly sensitive skin, eczema commonly affects their face, scalp, arms and legs. In older children and adults, the condition is often more contained around the elbows and knees, but severe cases could involve the entire body.

How to prevent eczema

1. Don’t over-bathe a child. Bath time can be fun, but too many bubbles might irritate your child’s not-so-fun eczema. Babies and toddlers have particularly sensitive skin and too much soap can cause dryness. Doctors from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend bathing your tot just two or three times a week. As your toddler gets older (and dirtier), it’s okay to bathe more often.

2. Keep bath time short. Long baths and showers can be relaxing for both you and your kid, but excessive bathing can dry out skin. Limit bath time to 15 minutes or less, say doctors at NYU’s Langone Medical Center.

3. Moisturize regularly. Douse your skin with fragrance-free lotion daily, advise doctors from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). For particularly sensitive skin or severe cases of eczema, dermatologists recommend using petroleum jelly. Apply immediately after bathing to lock in moisture.

4. Recognize and avoid eczema triggers. Products and detergents with fragrances, clothing tags, tight clothing or itchy fabrics like wool may trigger an eczema breakout. Cut tags off clothing to avoid irritation, and stick to loose and comfortable clothes.

5. Don’t itch. The more you itch, the itchier your skin will be. Itching could turn little eczema into a bigger breakout. Keep fingernails trim to avoid temptation.

6. Keep babies off carpeted surfaces. Rug burn from crawling and sliding on carpeted surfaces can cause an eczema breakout in infants and toddlers.

7. Air or pat dry. Rubbing with a towel can irritate your skin.

Think you might have eczema? How to treat it

1. Use hydrocortisone cream. Mild eczema flare-ups can be healed with an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. Use the cream before applying moisturizer.

2. Take antihistamines. Antihistamines like Benadryl or Claritin can help control the itchiness of an eczema breakout and keep it from spreading. Since antihistamines can make you drowsy, doctors from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital recommend taking them before bed.

3. See a dermatologist for prescription ointment. While hydrocortisone may work for mild breakouts, more serious breakouts may require a stronger prescription ointment. When moisturizing, be sure to apply the medicated ointment first, then the lotion.

4. Talk to your dermatologist about bleach baths. Many dermatologists recommend bleach baths as a form of therapy for eczema, according to the AAD. Your doctor will advise you as to how much bleach to use, how long to bathe and how often. Be sure to use regular bleach (not concentrated) and never apply bleach directly to skin.