Treating eczema (including tips for self-care)

Treating eczema (including tips for self-care)

There are many ways to treat eczema.

Emollients

Emollients are non-cosmetic moisturisers that keep the skin moist and flexible to prevent cracking. They come in the form of creams, lotions, gels and ointments.The are the most effective way to manage all types of eczema, as they keep the skin soft and supple.

Topical corticosteroids

Topical corticosteroids, or topical steroids for short, are creams, ointments and lotions which reduce the inflammation of the skin. Apply them once or twice a day. It is important to use the right amount of steroid creams as directed by your GP, as opposed to emollients – which can be applied liberally.

Self-care tips

  • Keep fingernails cut short and consider light gloves if scratching is a problem during the night.
  • Moisturisers and emollients are most effective when they are applied to skin that is wet or damp. After bathing, lightly pat the skin dry and then apply the moisturiser right away to seal in the moisture.
  • Use gentle skin care cleansers rather than traditional soaps, and limit use to only on your underarms, genital areas, hands, feet and face.
  • Keep your home cool, especially the bedroom, as a hot environment causes itching.
  • Use your emollient even when you are not experiencing symptoms.
  • Ask your GP about special medicated bandages, clothing or wet wraps. These are used over emollients or with topical steroids to prevent scratching, promote healing, and stop the skin from drying out.
  • Reduce stress by listening to guided relaxation, trying out meditation or practising mindfulness.
  • Invest in specialist clothing and bedding available for eczema sufferers. Cool cotton or silk fibre clothes and bedding are ideal for eczema sufferers, as these allow the skin to remain cool and less irritated.
  • Avoid sweating by not over-dressing during warmer weather and using suitable bedding for the climate.1

Avoiding triggers

  • Steer clear of chemicals such as washing detergents, perfume, soap and air freshener.
  • Avoid hot baths and showers, instead keep water lukewarm and gently pat dry before applying emollient.
  • Dust and vacuum regularly and try to keep allergens such as dust, pet dander, mould and pollen to a minimum.
  • Avoid any foods that may be triggers – peanuts, milk, soy, wheat, fish, and eggs are common.

Dietary Changes

There is no solid evidence that certain foods cause eczema or trigger a flare-up; however, some people notice symptoms do develop after they eat a specific food.

Elimination diets may help you work out if a specific food is contributing to your condition. This involves cutting out a certain food, such as eggs or cow’s milk, to check if there is any improvement in your skin.

Unless you have been tested and confirmed to have a particular food allergy, be sure to discuss your diet with your doctor before cutting out a whole food group.

Despite the uncertain links between eczema and food, a well-balanced diet including lots of fruits, vegetables, grains and low fat dairy products is the best diet for overall good health.

Products that can help:

Bamboo and silk bed linen has features and benefits for eczema sufferers. Not only does bamboo reduce irritation during the night, but it also wicks away excess moisture naturally and helps regulate body temperature. Silk and bamboo are great choices as they are naturally resistant to dust mites, fungi and mould, therefore ideal for those whose conditions are triggered by these allergens.

For those eczema sufferers who also have a dust mite allergy, Anti-Allergy bedding is ideal.

Allersafe anti-allergy bedding dramatically reduces the growth of dust mite allergens. Providing a healthier sleeping environment for those already sensitised to household dust mite allergens and preventing the sensitisation that leads to asthma, sinusitis and allergic rhinitis. Allersafe bedding is blended with Amicor Pure fibre, an intelligent fibre with anti-bacterial and anti-fungal additives inside. It creates an environment that is not suitable for dust mites to survive. Its effects last for at least 200 washes.

Causes and signs of Eczema

Causes and signs of Eczema

The causes of eczema include a combination of factors.

Eczema is known to run in families and often develops alongside other conditions, such as asthma, dust mite allergy and hay fever. It is unknown how it is passed between generations, but if one parent has asthma or hay fever, there’s about a 50% chance that their child will have at least one of these diseases. 1

Signs and symptoms

Some common symptoms include;

  • Very itchy, dry, swollen or sore patches of skin.
  • The rash tends to come and go and at times can be crusty and scaly.
  • Eczema can appear anywhere on the body, but the most common areas are inside the elbows, backs of the knees, face, behind the ears, buttocks and on the hands and feet.
  • Sometimes there may be other changes in the skin, such as raised bumps, hives or an extra fold of skin under your eyes.
  • Scratching can break the skin, allowing bacteria or viruses to enter and cause an infection.

Eczema affects everyone differently. It can be difficult to know if your skin is just excessively dry or you are suffering eczema.

The difference is dry skin is generally a temporary problem, and isn’t usually very itchy or inflamed. If you are suffering an itchy rash frequently, it is likely to be eczema. Visit your GP for proper diagnosis and advice. 2

Common causes of eczema

  • Certain foods can be triggers for eczema.
  • Allowing the skin to become too dry – as when it is rough or tight, this can cause an eczema flare up.
  • Emotional stress is thought to be linked to worsening of eczema symptoms.
  • Excessive heat can also aggravate the symptoms of eczema. This can happen during exercise or when bedding or nightwear is too heavy for the climate.
  • Everyday environmental materials such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mould and dandruff can also trigger eczema, and women are especially prone to experiencing flare ups caused by fluctuating hormone levels in the body.

So, there really there are no single causes of eczema.

Have eczema? Could you also have allergies?

If you suffer from eczema, you may also have allergies. Doctors refer to eczema, allergies, and asthma as the ‘atopic triad’ because they often occur together.

In the past, scientists thought eczema was caused by allergies, but we now know it is not this simple. Research shows that some people with the condition have a gene flaw that causes a lack of a specific protein (filaggrin) in their skin. This protein’s role is in protecting the outer layer of our skin which is a barrier to bacteria and foreign bodies.

Without filaggrin the skin dries out and the barrier breaks down making the skin vulnerable to substances it is exposed to, such as soaps and detergents. It is also easier for allergens to enter the body, which makes people more sensitive to particular allergens, even food.

Research also highlights an issue with a type of white blood cell that helps control allergic reactions in the body. This could explain why people with eczema suffer flare ups when they are exposed to allergens. It has also been proven that eczema sufferers have higher than normal levels of antibodies. Researchers have yet to work out why eczema sufferers have this higher level and its role in this skin disease. 3

An Introduction to Eczema

An Introduction to Eczema

What is Atopic Eczema?

Atopic eczema, is the most common form of Eczema which is a skin condition that causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked.

Atopic eczema is more common in children, often developing before their first birthday. However, it may also develop for the first time in adults. It’s usually a long-term condition, although it can improve significantly, or even clear completely, in some children as they get older.

Atopic eczema is thought to be caused by a weakness in the skin barrier. This makes it more susceptible to inflammation and allows allergens and bacteria to have contact with the immune system.

What types of Eczema are there?

  1. Atopic eczema can affect any part of the body; however, it is most commonly found on the knees, elbows, neck, scalp, hands and face. The majority of eczema sufferers have atopic eczema, which is the most severe type of eczema and usually starts in childhood.
  2. Dyshidrotic eczema, (also known as pompholyx eczema) The symptoms of this type of eczema are itchy watery blisters on the hands and feet. Sufferers also experience a burning and prickling sensation on the palms of their hands and soles of their feet. This type of eczema is more common in adults over the age of 40 years old. It’s also more common among people who tend to have their hands and feet emerged in water a lot, or those who come in contact with chromium, cobalt, or nickel.
  3. Nummular eczema refers to the coin-shaped spots on the skin, this is also called discoid eczema because the scaly patches look like discs. The cause of this type of eczema is still unknown.

Each different type of eczema can range in severity and can clear up only to reappear again in the future. Eczema can affect your quality of life and it also has an effect on sleep patterns. This can make sufferers feel irritable and frustrated but with good management of symptoms this problem can be alleviated.

If you suspect you may have Eczema consult your doctor or find out more here.

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