Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition with symptoms that include dry, itching and reddened skin patches. There is no cure, but the condition can be managed. Traditional treatment options include emollients (moisturisers), topical steroids (medicated creams) and oral antihistamines.
Most people with eczema find that their symptoms are worsened by common aspects of daily living, such as weather, household chemicals and stress. The following suggestions may help you to better manage your eczema and reduce the incidence of flare-ups.
Symptoms of eczema
• Moderate-to-severely itching skin (this symptom separates eczema from other skin rashes) • Recurring rash -- dry, red, patchy or cracked skin. (In infants and toddlers, the rash usually appears on the face, elbows or knees. In older children and adults, the rash appears less often on the face, and more commonly on the hands, neck, inner elbows, backs of the knees and ankles.) • Skin weeping watery fluid • Rough, “leathery,” thick skin
Reduce skin irritation
People with eczema have hypersensitive skin. Irritants like heat or detergents can easily trigger a bout of eczema. Suggestions include • Avoid overheating the skin; for example, wear several layers of clothing that you can remove instead of one heavy layer, and don’t put too many blankets on your bed. Avoid duvets. • Don’t use perfumed bubble bath or ‘medicated’ bath products. • Do not wash your hair in the bath. • Wear soft, smooth materials next to your skin, preferably 100 per cent cotton. Avoid scratchy materials like pure wool, polyester or acrylic. You could try a cotton and synthetic mix material -- this is fine for some people with eczema. Remove labels from clothing. • Some laundry detergents or fabric conditioners can lead to skin irritation. Rinse clothes thoroughly after washing. • Always wear protective gloves when using any type of chemical or detergent. You might want to use cotton gloves inside the rubber or PVC gloves. • Avoid chlorinated pools. If you really want to swim in a chlorinated pool, slather your skin beforehand with an oil-based product to protect the skin.
Be careful with all skin products
Suggestions include • Remember that even hypoallergenic cosmetics can irritate your skin. Whenever possible, keep your face free of make-up. • Avoid perfumes, fragranced skin lotions and strongly scented shampoos. • When using a new cosmetic, try testing it first on a small, inconspicuous area of skin like your forearm. If you experience a reaction, don’t use the product at all.
Avoid allergens whenever possible
In some cases, eczema is thought to be an allergic reaction to environmental triggers. Some people with resistant eczema find it helpful to reduce exposure to a wide range of known allergens including • House dust mites • Moulds • Grass pollens
In other cases, some people have received great results from desensitizing their bodies from these known allergens.
Kids and eczema
Eczema affects all ages. It usually appears in early childhood (in babies between two-to-six months of age) and disappears around six years of age. In fact, more than half of all eczema sufferers show signs within their first 12 months of life and 20 per cent of people develop eczema before the age of five.
Most children grow out of the condition, but a small percentage may experience severe eczema into adulthood. The condition can not only affect the individual sufferer, but also their family and friends.
Other tips to manage your eczema include • Keep your fingernails short -- longer nails are more likely to injure your skin when you scratch. • A well-ventilated house reduces the risk of mould and damp. • If the water in your area is ‘hard’ (full of minerals) or alkaline, consider installing a water-softening device. • Have a regular swim in the sea in warm weather whenever you can -- seawater is known to reduce the symptoms of eczema. • Limited sun exposure -- for example, when swimming at the beach -- can help relieve eczema symptoms. However, sun exposure causes overheating, and it can also aggravate eczema, so don’t overdo it.
Eczema is not an easy condition to live with, whether it be yourself or a loved one. But there are more and more natural remedies and treatments available on the market for you to try. We don’t always have to use conventional drugs that may have nasty side effects to get results. In fact, using simple, old fashioned remedies from your grandma’s cupboard may just be the answer. However, keep in mind that every single case of eczema from person to person is different and what works for one may not work for the next. You may need to try a few products before you find the one that works for you!