Six steps to getting eczema under control

Dr Unnati Desai

Struggling with eczema? Dr Unnati Desai gives you some tips of keeping it under control.

Eczema, otherwise known as Dermatitis, is a common skin condition affecting 1 in 5 people. It can come on suddenly (acute eczema) or be chronic (longstanding). Many people have it from childhood, and some may grow out of it, but in others it can persist much longer.

The severity, the areas on the body it affects and triggers that cause it can vary from person to person, but also in one individual.

It causes a patch of skin to become red, itchy and inflamed, but also the skin becomes drier.

Triggers are numerous and include dry skin, allergic reaction to things that come in contact with the skin, atopy (a generally increased sensitivity to normal environmental substances), injury, yeast infection, sweat, dry environment and stress.

Getting rid of eczema can be difficult as it will often flare up, so finding ways to manage it is important, and there are a few basic principles to managing eczema that can help.

  1. Keep the skin as hydrated as possible by:
  • Having quick showers rather than hot long baths.
  • Using a soap substitute instead of a shower gel, as these will cleanse the skin without stripping it of its natural oils.
  • Using a good emollient (medical grade moisturiser without fragrances and too many chemicals in the ingredients). The best emollient is the one that you’re happy to use and there is a variety to choose from. Some are light weight and others are greasier- and obviously the more greasy the emollient, the better protection it gives the skin – but they may not always be a practical choice. One way to handle this is to use a creamy one in the morning on your way into work, a lighter one while at work and a greasy one overnight. Finding the right one to suit your skin may be a case of trial and error as even emollients can contain ingredients that do not suit everyone.
  • Keep the environment humid. This is especially important in winter when the central heating dries out the air. An effective way of doing this a home is to place a bowl of water above the radiator, so as the water evaporates with the heat, it will humidify the air.

2. Remove any sweat from the skin as sweat can act as an irritant to some people, especially in the folds where it can trigger eczema. Rinsing off after exercise, including swimming, and moisturising straight away can help.

3. Avoid any triggers that obviously aggravate the skin. These can include certain foods, jewellery or cosmetic products.

4. Wear non-irritating natural fabrics such as cotton or silk which are smooth and will not cause friction on the skin. Clothes should also be loose fitting to minimise irritation.

5. Try to not scratch, as this will only make the inflammation worse. Keeping nails short can help minimise trauma to the skin. Sleeping in long sleeves/ legged clothing at night can also help. Sometimes a sedating antihistamine, such as Piriton, can be useful overnight to minimise scratching in the sleep.

6. Steroid creams are useful when the skin is inflamed, itchy and red. These creams come in different strengths, but there are milder steroid creams that are available over-the-counter from all pharmacies. Steroid creams should be used with caution and only a thin layer is ever needed or two times a day.

Remember that eczema can become infected as the skin’s ability to protect itself is compromised with active eczema. It can also be difficult to get under control and to treat. Management is the key.

Remember, if you have any skin concerns, see your GP.

You can find Dr Unnati here.

You can find out more about eczema here.

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