Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is a skin allergy or condition which causes irritation, inflammation and intense itchiness. Skin affected by eczema is often very dry, as it is unable to retain enough moisture due to insufficient production of barrier oils and fats. There are, however, things you can do to keep your eczema under control.
1. Keep skin moisturised
Apply a good, generous amount of emollients at least twice or three times a day, preferably after bathing or showering, when skin is still damp to lock in as much moisture as possible. You may need to try several different emollients to find the one which works the best for you or your child. Daily moisturising may be all you need to keep mild eczema under control. If you use topical corticosteroids, try not to use them at the same time as emollients as this may cause them to become diluted and reduce their effectiveness.
2. Avoid fragrances, preservatives and other irritants
Soaps, bubble baths and shower gels may be extremely drying and irritating for eczema sufferers, as they remove the natural barrier oils of the skin. You can ask your doctor for a suitable soap substitute. Perfumes, preservatives and alcohol in toiletries, laundry and cleaning products may trigger eczema flare-ups for some people, so it is a good idea to avoid them. You should always read the list of ingredients on these products before using them. Things you may want to avoid include:
- preservatives (parabens, triclosan, phthalates, methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone)
- and other ingredients like sodium laureth sulfate (SLS)
If you live in a hard water area, you should consider purchasing a shower water filter, as hard water can cause further irritation to your skin. There is a wide range of water filters available on the market.
3. Do not scratch
Skin affected by eczema can be extremely itchy, but avoiding scratching is vital for keeping eczema under control. Scratching damages the skin and increases the risk of infection, which may cause further worsening of the symptoms. Gently rubbing, pinching or tapping the itchy area may help. Applying an ice pack or cooling patch, or pouring cold water over the itchy area may also bring some relief. Keeping fingernails short will help to stop deep, severe scratching.
4. Keep cool
Another potential trigger for an eczema flare-up is excess heat. Do not overheat your home, especially the bedrooms. Avoid hot showers or baths, and wear loose clothing without too many layers. It should also be noted that extreme cold temperatures may also trigger your eczema, so make sure you wear adequate clothing during the winter.
5. Keep calm
Stress, life disruptions and lack of sleep may also affect the symptoms of eczema. Some people start scratching their skin in response to stress. Scratching, in turn, may worsen the eczema symptoms. Red, eczema-affected skin may also lower some people’s self confidence, causing additional distress. Find a relaxation technique , that works for you, such as meditation, massage therapy or warm bath. Make sure that you have enough sleep and keep calm.
6. Find your triggers
Eczema can be triggered by many factors which can vary between each person. Common triggers, include:
- irritants such as detergents, soaps, shampoo, bubble bath, washing up liquid, cleaning products
- environmental factors – cold, dry weather, dampness, dust mites, pollen, animal dander, mould
- food allergies (such as all the top 14 allergens including: peanuts, dairy, soya, eggs, wheat)
- some fabrics (for example wool or synthetic fabircs)
- hormonal changes
- skin infection
- changes in temperature
- hard water
The best way to find your triggers is to keep a detailed diary of your symptoms, your meals, any personal care products you are using, and so on. Our app – AlliApp can help you with this. It has been developed in conjunction with leading NHS allergy specialists and other healthcare professionals and has been approved by Apple as a medical app. AlliApp is a simple, yet comprehensive way to track your triggers. It features many options, including the ability to photograph your meals and any skin-based reactions. It also allows you to list food ingredients and to make notes of skin care and other products as well as their ingredients.