To prevent or reduce eczema flare-ups, avoid exposure to extreme temperatures, dry air, harsh soaps, perfumed products, and bubble baths. Use blankets and clothing made of cotton instead of more irritating fabrics, such as wool, or stiff synthetics, such as polyester. After showering or bathing, pat dry (rather than rub) so you leave a little moisture on your skin. Then apply a moisturizing cream or lotion to trap moisture in the skin. Use a humidifier to add moisture to indoor air during the winter heating season.
To help to prevent contact dermatitis, avoid skin contact with irritating chemicals, plants, jewelry and substances that trigger skin allergies. If you have leg swelling, you can help prevent stasis dermatitis by wearing compression stockings and by elevating your legs if you sit for long periods.
Your doctor usually will review your skin care routine to make sure you are doing everything possible to prevent symptoms. If, despite these measures, your eczema is bothersome, your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid ointment or cream for you to use on the affected area. In atopic dermatitis, mild or medium strength topical (applied to the skin) steroids generally are used, while strong steroids and oral antihistamines may be needed to treat allergic contact dermatitis. If there are signs of bacterial skin infection, oral antibiotics usually are needed.
Sometimes, in very severe cases of eczema, your doctor will prescribe a short course of oral steroids or stronger medications that decrease the activity of the immune system. However, steroids taken for prolonged periods and other drugs that suppress the immune system can have serious side effects. They must be used cautiously. In some people, treatment with ultraviolet (UV) light is another option.
Seborrhea in adults is best treated with dandruff shampoo and, occasionally, with prescription antifungal facial creams or rinses. Cradle cap in infants eventually clears up without treatment, though it can last several months. The crust usually can be loosened by applying baby oil to the scalp 30 to 60 minutes before brushing with a soft brush and then washing with baby shampoo.
When treating a contact allergy in a child, avoid topical treatments containing antihistamines (such as calamine lotion with diphenhydramine) because skin reactions can occur.