Eczema is a chronic skin condition characterized by a red rash which can appear anywhere on the body but often appear on the neck, wrist, ankles and places where the body bends – the inner elbow and the back of the knees. Eczema often appears in early childhood and can lessen as children become adults. For some people the symptoms of eczema last well into adulthood. The rash is often accompanied by an intense itch. Some people scratch so much the skin bleeds, which causes the rash to worsen, which in turn creates more itching.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
One of the best and easiest ways to reduce symptoms of eczema is to keep your skin moisturized. Use ointments and creams rather than lotions, and look for moisturizers that are unscented and don’t contain other additives, which can irritate and inflame the skin. Use moisturizer immediately after showering and throughout the day. Anytime your skin feels dry or itchy, moisturize again.
Keep the temperature at home stable
You might notice your eczema flares when temperatures change or when you move from one temperature to another quickly. You can’t control the weather outdoors or in your workplace but you can maintain a consistent temperature at home by keeping your thermostat around the same temperature throughout the day. Use air conditioning during hot summer months.
Use a humidifier during cold winter months
Running heaters can dry out your skin, but are necessary during the cold winter months. To help minimize drying out your skin, use a cool mist humidifier at home. If your work environment is dry, consider purchasing a desktop humidifier.
Learn about your triggers
You might notice there are certain conditions that trigger flares of eczema. These can be different for each person. Some common triggers include scented products, cleaning chemicals, pet dander, grass and dust mites. Some people find certain foods will cause an eczema flare. Keep track of what causes your eczema to flare and then take steps to avoid those triggers.
Be gentle to your skin
When taking a shower or bath, use warm water instead of hot. Pat your body dry instead of rubbing with a towel. Use unscented cleansers instead of soap.
Wash new clothes before wearing them
New clothes can have chemicals, dust or other irritants, from the manufacturing process, packing, shipping or sitting in storerooms. These can potentially irritate your skin and cause your eczema to flare. Whenever you purchase new clothes, wash using a mild, unscented detergent before you wear them.
Keep fingernails short
Eczema is itchy, but scratching can can make things worse. Scratching can actually increase the itch and inflame your skin. Keep fingernails short so if you do scratch, you will minimize the damage.
Use antihistamines to relieve the itch
Over-the-counter antihistamines can help lower the intensity of itching. If you take any other medications or have other health conditions, be sure to talk to your doctor about antihistamines before using them. Keep in mind antihistamines can make you drowsy so take them when you don’t need to drive.
Always use sunscreen
Sun exposure, especially sunburn, can damage your skin, dry it out and cause eczema to flare. Use sunscreen every time you are going outdoors. Look for sunscreen that is made for the face as this is normally gentler on the skin than regular sunscreen.
Use stress reducing techniques
Stress can be a major trigger for eczema. Take a few minutes every day for deep breathing, meditation or mindfulness to help you lower your stress levels. If you have a hard time coping with stressful situations, talk with a counselor or therapist about what you are going through and ask about strategies you can add to your everyday routine.
For more information on eczema
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.