Here at Westchester Health, we see a fair amount of eczema. Fortunately, it’s not contagious, but it does tend to run in families with a history of eczema or other conditions such as hay fever and asthma. Different triggers can make it worse, such as stress, allergies and sweating, which can cause itchy, painful flare-ups.
Eczema flare-ups can be especially problematic
Eczema is a condition which requires constant monitoring because excessive rubbing and scratching of the itchy areas can tear the skin, which in turn can lead to infection. A chronic skin problem, eczema can appear anywhere on the body or in just a few areas, and the symptoms are different with each person. Typically, eczema appears as a rash in the following places:
- on the face and scalp
- in the folds of the elbows and knees
- on the hands, feet, arms and the backs of knees
Typical symptoms of eczema include:
- Dry, scaly skin
- Small bumps that “weep” when scratched
- Redness and swelling of the skin
- Thickening of the skin
Most effective ways to prevent eczema flare-ups
One of the best things you can do to manage flare-ups is to try to prevent them from happening. Here are some preventative steps you can take:
- Keep your skin moisturized. Thorough moisturizing should be a part of your daily routine.
- Use fragrance-free moisturizers.
- Cream or ointment is more moisturizing than lotion.
- After a bath, gently pat the skin with a towel and then apply moisturizer to the damp skin.
- Apply moisturizer at least once a day, more often if needed, applied to the face and entire body.
- Avoid irritants. People who are sensitive to scratchy fabrics or chemicals in soaps and detergents should:
- Wear soft fabrics such as 100% cotton clothing.
- Use mild, fragrance-free body cleansers.
- Take short baths with room temperature water.
- Take less frequent baths.
- Use mild laundry detergent with no dyes or perfumes.
- Skip using fabric softener in the dryer.
- Don’t scratch.
Scratching can make the rash worse and lead to infection. Also, the more you scratch, the more the area will itch. To avoid this, keep fingernails short and smooth.
- Ask your doctor if allergies could be causing your eczema.
Sometimes allergies such as food, pets, pollens or dust mites (in bedding) can trigger eczema or make it worse. If your eczema is caused by an allergy, avoid the trigger if possible. Also ask your doctor of other things could be causing flare-ups, such as overheating, sweating and stress.
You may need to treat your eczema with medication
Your physician may recommend medication to help keep the symptoms of your eczema under control. The type of medicine recommended will depend on how severe the eczema is and where it appears on your body. Treatments typically include OTC and/or prescription topical medications and oral ones.
Remember, eczema is a chronic skin problem, which means that it can come and go. It requires ongoing management by you and your doctor. If after several treatments your condition does not improve, you may need to see a dermatologist for severe or resistant eczema.
Additional resources to learn more
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
- American Academy of Dermatology
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
- National Eczema Association
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
- Society for Pediatric Dermatology
If you have eczema and it’s becoming a problem, come see us
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, please come see us at Westchester Health to see one of our Allergy and Immunology specialists. He/she will examine you, make a diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment so you can soon get relief and feel better. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.