MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For many people, winter doesn’t bring just cold temperatures. It also means the prolonged misery of dry, itchy, cracking skin.

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The affliction is not limited to any particular skin type, age, or gender, so if you are having problems with winter dry skin, follow these expert tips on what you can do to help prevent it.

Combining the cold temperatures outside with the warm temperatures inside can lead to your skin beginning to crack, which could be a potentially dangerous situation.

“You could be giving all sorts of nasty bacteria a way to get into your skin. That can lead to more serious problems,” Mid-Atlantic Skin’s Dr. George Verghese said.

If untreated, dry skin can sometimes lead to dermatitis, which causes swelling and infection.

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Use creams and soaps with moisturizers to keep skin soft. Apply them when the skin is damp. Avoid those with alcohol or perfumes. Also keep away from taking long, hot baths during the winter months.

“I know this is the time of year you’d like to stay in a hot shower, but the sooner you get in and out the better. Hot water dries skin out,” Verghese said.

While patches of dry skin can appear anywhere, it’s most common on the arms, hands, lower legs, and abdomen.

Also, skin in the joint areas can become red and flaky. Make sure to check these areas and keep them moist. If they become seriously inflamed, it’s best to see your doctor.

Another good tip to keep the winter itch away is to invest in a humidifier to help add moisture to the dry air.

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Susan Hendricks, Reporting