Atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a chronic skin allergy or condition. Skin affected by eczema is unable to retain enough moisture due to insufficient production of barrier oils and fats and so it is often very dry. During eczema flare-ups skin may become irritated, inflamed and extremely itchy with red patches and often, scratch marks. Bleeding is common during intense flare-ups as well as developing small water blisters or moist, weepy patches. Repeated scratching may thicken the skin, causing it to become even more itchy.
What triggers eczema flare-ups?
Eczema flare-ups can be triggered by many factors which vary from person to person. However, the most common triggers include:
- irritants such as detergents, soaps, shampoo, bubble bath, washing up liquid and cleaning products
- environmental factors – cold, dry weather, dampness, dust mites, pollen, animal dander, mould
- food allergies (top 14 allergens, including: peanuts, dairy, soya, eggs, wheat)
- some fabrics (for example wool or synthetics ), hormonal changes, skin infection, stress, sweat or changes in temperature
What to do during an eczema flare-up
- Use topical corticosteroids as prescribed by your doctor, usually this will be once a day, preferably before bed to reduce itchiness during the night, which often disturbs sleep. Use them until the affected area is healed, this could range from a few days to as long as 2-3 weeks
- Do not use topical corticosteroids at the same time as emollients – leave a gap of at least 10-15 minutes between applications of these treatments
- Keep the skin moisturised. Apply a generous amount of emollient twice to three times a day
- You may like to try special paste bandages and wet wraps, they help to moisturise the skin and protect it from scratching, your doctor or dermatologist may be able to recommend a training session for this
- Topical immunomodulators are a relatively new treatment for the reduction of inflammation during flare-ups, ask your doctor about this if topical steroids do not work
- Daily washing or bathing is important to avoid infection; however, water shouldn’t be hot and washing shouldn’t last too long. Use a suitable soap substitute, and when drying the skin tap it gently with a towel instead of rubbing it
- If you live in a hard water area you should consider purchasing a shower water filter
- Avoid your triggers
If you don’t know your triggers, the best way to find them is to keep a detailed diary of your symptoms, as well as your meals, personal care products you are using, and so on. Our app – AlliApp can help you with this. Developed in conjunction with leading NHS allergy specialists and other healthcare professionals, AlliApp has been approved by Apple as a medical app. It is a simple, yet comprehensive way to track your triggers. It features many options, including the ability to photograph your meals and any skin changes you might notice, as well as listing your food ingredients and making a note of skin care and other products, and their ingredients.