Comfy Climates: Relocation for an Eczema Sufferer
March 13, 2006 9:38 AM   Subscribe

I have had eczema all my life, but it has never been as bad as when I’ve lived in Boston, where I live now. I’m appealing to a small subgroup of people on this site, but I’m hoping I can appeal to people with sensitive skin and eczema who live in some of the places where I’m considering moving

  • San Francisco (or an environ thereof)
  • Denver
  • Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
  • Atlanta (where I grew up)
  • Austin
There are of course many other factors I’m considering, but this is the one where it’s harder to gauge exactly how the different climates will affect my quality of life. When it’s too hot (like Austin), that can lead to heat rash. And I’ve never lived in a place with humidity as low as Denver, so I’m not sure how that would be. I’ve also never lived anywhere without four distinct seasons, so that’s another unknown. Lots to think about, but I’d appreciate any input you have. Thanks!
posted by abbyladybug to Health & Fitness (27 answers total)
I always had great skin until I had my son. Now I am washing my hands almost constantly and I've broken out with eczema. Has anything else changed during your time in Boston? Just wondering, since moving is a big endeavour.
posted by acoutu at 9:46 AM on March 13, 2006

Response by poster: I've been under a lot of stress, but I also lived in Boston in 1992-93, and the same thing happened. I'd forgotten how bad it could be. So I do think it is climate related. But like I said, there are other reasons I'm moving, but when I do, I'd like it to be to a climate without this problem. I know really cold climates are terrible for eczema, so you don't see any of those on the list, and growing up in Atlanta, I remember hear rash in the summers, but not eczema. What remains a mystery is the effect of a place like Denver. It's dry there, but does that mean just dry skin? Or does that mean eczema, too?
posted by abbyladybug at 9:49 AM on March 13, 2006

I don't know a lot about eczema, but I know my husband's has been 1000% better since we moved from Chicago to south Florida. I think it's humidity-related, but I'm not an expert.
posted by orangemiles at 10:01 AM on March 13, 2006

Mod note: moved more to inside
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:04 AM on March 13, 2006

The nice thing about the SF Bay Area is the relative lack of pollution. Fewer allergens = fewer skin problems.
posted by radioamy at 10:15 AM on March 13, 2006

Consider taking an omega 3 fatty acid supplement every day (either fish oil or flaxseed oil). This has worked for several of my friends who have eczema.
posted by lemur at 10:20 AM on March 13, 2006

sorry for possibly derailing, but acoutu, you may also want to check out the fish or flaxseed oil - made a world of difference for me since having my son 3 yrs ago.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:30 AM on March 13, 2006

Response by poster: I take flaxseed. I do think it helps, but it doesn't eliminate. I think I'm getting the best of the treatments. I have a humidifier, take flax seed oil, moisturize a LOT, ad I have a prescription for elidel. I have even started taking oatmeal baths. It all helps a lot, but it's not better than not-Boston!
posted by abbyladybug at 10:37 AM on March 13, 2006

The only data point I can add is on Atlanta, since it's the only city I've lived in that's on your list. I lived in Atlanta for many years, and never had much eczema to speak of - maybe just a tiny spot on one arm that wasn't bothersome. It sounds like your experience with Atlanta was the same.

Now I'm living elsewhere and my eczema has gotten much worse. Now whether that's related to location or age, I couldn't tell you.
posted by hazyjane at 10:47 AM on March 13, 2006

I've lived in the greater boston area my whole 28 yrs, and have had mild eczema for about 4. This may be a derail / stupid question, but I didn't realize that climate could effect eczema? I don't suppose you could elaborate? What about boston is bad?

(My understanding with eczema and the itching and irritation was heat=bad, cold=good ?)
posted by sarahmelah at 10:57 AM on March 13, 2006

I never had excema until I moved to NYC, and its gotten increasingly worse since I moved here. My previous places of residence were East TN (climate similar to Raleigh-Durham) and Nashville (similar to Atlanta). I think part of the problem is not just the cold... but the very dry heat in most East coast buildings.
posted by kimdog at 11:04 AM on March 13, 2006

People who don't like Boston blame it for everything, huh? Because my worst bout of eczema happened during a year in Wales (where it rarely gets below freezing), but I'm not blaming Wales for it. I also had pretty bad eczema during the year that I lived in a South End townhouse, but I'd be hard pressed to blame it on the entire region because it's gotten much better since I moved to a newer house.

What makes you think that Mayor Menino's Eczema Ray can't reach you in Raleigh-Durham? That thing on Great Blue Hill's just an antenna. Mumbles' Itchy Machine is on a satellite and you obviously have his attention already.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:11 AM on March 13, 2006

Response by poster: Haha. Well, in my little experiment, data collection isn't perfect. Both times I've moved to Boston, my eczema has gotten much worse. Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's the fact that both times I've moved here have been really stressful times in my life. I can't know. But while I love a lot of the people I've met here, it's a little too high stress, a little too bottleneck and trafficky, and the winters are a little too long. I'm definitely moving. I just need to think about where.

California is appealing because I love the idea of yearlong skin comfort. Maybe it seems like a tiny aspect of life, but when it's itchy all the time, it affects my quality of life. I just want to think about it in a smart way.

Denver is actually the big mystery. Apparently, you can't go by the published averages and stats on the climate, because the mountains change the way the weather works.

Calling Denver people! Calling Denver people!!
posted by abbyladybug at 11:18 AM on March 13, 2006

My eczema hates cold, dry air. My anecdotal experience is that it was much worse in Santa Cruz, CA (pretty near SF) than in Santa Barbara, CA or here in Seattle, but I have no idea why. I was under a ton of stress in Santa Barbara, and the weather is a lot colder here in Seattle than in Santa Cruz, so I don't know if weather or stress was the difference.

I kind of assume that this had more to do with age than location, though. I think I just grew out of it, since I was an older teenager when I had it worst in Santa Cruz and now that I'm 27 I just get some minor flareups in winter.
posted by lemuria at 11:18 AM on March 13, 2006

and the winters are a little too long.

I can't argue with that, but any allergist will tell you (and I've had a number of them) that eczema is caused by an allergy its root. So weather might help you, but it's not a magic bullet (and I'm sure you know that, but if you want to be free from it it will take MORE than a change of venue unless your new venue is a plastic bubble with a lamb and rice diet).

And I made a typo in my previous post when I suggested that I spent a year scratchy in the South End. I lived in that dusty place for SIX years.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:33 AM on March 13, 2006

My worst years of eczema were in Portland, OR, a similar climate to SF. One of the things that really helps eczema, beyond moisturizer and flax seed oil, is to occasionally get some sun (which is not to say give up on sunscreen or protecting yourself from skin cancer) a feat considrably more difficult when you move someplace cloudy. Go for sunshine, I say.
posted by Sara Anne at 11:50 AM on March 13, 2006

I grew up in Columbia, SC (similiar weather to ATL) and then moved to Raleigh-Durham. My heat rash dropped from 1/2 per week in Columbia summers to 1/2 per summer in the Triangle. And in the Triangle both my eczema & allergies are so mild that I rare take anything for either. Less extreme heat & ragweed pollen did the trick for me.
posted by smash at 12:28 PM on March 13, 2006

I live in Denver and the dry skin season (pretty much September to May) can be very irritating. I <3 my humidifier. I suffer from minor eczema but I don't know if it's hampered or helped by the climate.
posted by m@ at 12:47 PM on March 13, 2006

Oh my. I've had skin troubles since I moved from Northwest Florida to Portland, OR. I'm currently experiencing my worst case this year. On wetter days my skin behaves well, but I've been in hell the a majority of the past few months.

Get thee back to the southeast post-haste! I would heed my own advice, but bad-skin aside; I love the Northwest.
posted by mnology at 1:01 PM on March 13, 2006

Go somewhere sunny and warmish. The weather here (Columbia, SC) has been in the 80's the past couple days and my skin is loving it. I even went out the house in a short sleeve shirt today. :)
posted by chiababe at 1:08 PM on March 13, 2006

Response by poster: Sun does seem to make it better. I've read that Denver has 300 sunny days a year, despite having some real cold spells (although I hear they are short).

Allergies can be BAAAAAD in Atlanta. Maybe I should start checking out pollen count, too.

I'm wondering if sun is more important than high humidity.

I'm leaning towards SF, NC, and then there's this big Denver question mark. I know it has sun, but I also know it has low humidity (considerably lower than every other place), and I don't know how that will work for me.
posted by abbyladybug at 1:45 PM on March 13, 2006

My wife has eczema. She grew up in Atlanta, and went to school at UMass (amherst). She says that it has never flared up so little as it does now, since we moved to Gainesville FL. I don't know what the factors are in this, but I would guess that humidity (as others have mentioned) plays a big role (the more humid the better...). But she also spent a large amount of time in chlorinated swimming pools in ATL and MASS, and less so here...
posted by iurodivii at 1:50 PM on March 13, 2006

Response by poster: Chlorinated pools mess me up!! So I'm in search of more Denver info!
posted by abbyladybug at 6:26 PM on March 13, 2006

Just a side note to ppl who have a not-quite-sure diagnosis of eczema: I had awful itchy oozing outbreaks on my hands and feet a couple years ago and thought it was pompholyx eczema, also known as dishydrosis.

Turns out that the itchy feet were actually athlete's foot, and the itchy hands were an id reaction -- an allergic reaction to the fungal infection.

Once the athlete's foot was cleared up, the hands cleared up too. Haven't had an outbreak since.
posted by ottereroticist at 6:38 PM on March 13, 2006

I had only minor problems with eczema in Atlanta, but it became a major headache when we moved the hour north to Jasper. I attributed this to the change in water. We're on well water here, and it is very hard. I'm looking to install a water softener.
posted by snardo at 6:47 PM on March 13, 2006

I live in Colorado Springs, which is pretty close to the same climate as Denver. I've had very sensitive skin since I was a kid, and I was first diagnosed with eczema a couple years ago. The winter air here drys out my skin something terrible, but running a humidifier and slathering on plenty of lotion keeps it under control. During the summer the air's not such a sponge, so I don't usually have problems.

Overall, it's better than southern IL, where I grew up. The humidity there tended to provoke heat rashes and the winter wasn't much better than it is here. I did live in Ventura, CA for about a year and don't recall having any skin problems while I was there.
posted by pmann at 8:24 PM on March 13, 2006

I lived in and around London, UK for 27 years, and had eczema, allergies and asthma on and off the whole time. Eczema can be stress-related, allergy-related and weather-related, but usually a combo. I got asthma and eczema mostly when the weather was cold and damp, often triggered by mold spores in the crappy student houses I lived in. Then I moved to sunny Los Angeles, where the air quality sucks, but its sunny and dry almost the entire year round. My eczema has completely disappeared, allergies are better (no mold) and asthma much is better (no cold wet weather, no mold). So I guess that suggests dry, warm weather is good, but of course YMMV.

I'm not sure which I would pick from your list, if it were me, I would look into some dry, hot desert communities - LA, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas etc.
posted by Joh at 8:52 PM on March 13, 2006

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