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Atopic dermatitis, which is commonly known as eczema, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that tends to affect infants and children, although between one and three per cent of the adult population also suffer from the complaint.

Symptoms for eczema include red, inflamed and itchy skin. People with eczema are also more susceptible to skin infections.

As the mercury levels start to drop here in Dubai, and more people head outside to enjoy the milder weather, what does this mean if you suffer from eczema?

Dr Anwar Al Hammadi, Head of Dermatology Department, Dubai Health Authority (DHA), explains that exposure to the sun can actually be beneficial for people suffering from eczema. “Scientifically, ultra violet rays with certain limits might be good for people who have eczema or psoriasis but when the intensity of the sun is really high, it might be an irritant,” he says. In fact, studies have shown that vitamin D increases the production of a protein called cathelicidin, which protects the healthy skin from infections and bacteria. 

Nevertheless, Dr Hammadi still recommends that people who are outside should apply sunscreen every two hours, even when it’s cloudy, and avoid situations, which might irritate their skin. “In the winter, where there are more barbecues, my advice is to avoid standing very close to heaters or fire,” he says. “I would also recommend moisturising the skin.”

Dr Hammadi also says that people with eczema aren’t necessarily more susceptible to sunburn although over exposure to the sun may prolong the pigmentation.

Photodermatitis

One form of eczema where it’s inadvisable to expose your skin to the sun is photodermatitis. It’s a chronic condition where people have an allergic reaction to UV rays on their skin. “Photodermatitis is form of eczema that can be challenging to diagnose because some people say that, whenever they go outside, they turn red, so it might be rosacea and not photodermatitis, says Dr Hammadi.

Photodermatitis is however a rare form of eczema. If you suffer from the more common, atopic dermatitis, then you can indeed enjoy the sun during the milder months, provided you take sensible precautions and moderate your exposure.