Eczema-Caring For Your Skin

What is eczema?

Eczema is a general term for rash-like skin conditions. The most common type of eczema is called atopic dermatitis, which is an allergic reaction. Eczema is often very itchy and when you scratch it, the skin becomes red and inflamed. It occurs in adults and children. You are more likely to have eczema if you have a family history of the condition. Eczema is not contagious.

Limit your contact with things that you are allergic to or things that can irritate your skin.

Allergies play a significant role in eczema. It may be the only manifestation of a food allergy in a child. Having a thorough allergy assessment to identify possible allergies is essential. Some things that may irritate your skin include household cleansers, detergents, aftershave lotions, soap, gasoline, turpentine and other solvents. Try to avoid contact with things that make your eczema flare.

Wear clothes made of cotton or a cotton blend.

Wool and some synthetic fabrics can irritate your skin. Most people with sensitive skin feel better in clothes made of cotton or a cotton blend.

Care for your skin in the bath or shower.

Bathe only with a mild soap, such as Dove, Basis or Oil of Olay. Use a small amount of soap when bathing. Keep the water temperature cool or warm, not hot. Soaking in the tub for a short time can be good for your skin because the skin’s outer layer can absorb water and become less dry. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Then use a soft towel to pat your skin dry without rubbing. Immediately after drying, apply a moisturizer to your skin. This helps seal in the moisture. If medicated creams or ointments have been prescribed, apply those before the moisturizing creams as directed by your doctor.

Use the medicine your doctor has prescribed for you.

When your eczema flares up (gets worse), use the medicine prescribed by your doctor. Use it right after bathing. Medicine used to treat eczema is usually a steroid medicine that you rub on your skin. Follow your doctor’s directions for using this medicine or check the label for proper use. Call your doctor if your skin does not get better after 2 weeks of using the medicine.

Use a moisturizer on your skin every day.

Moisturizers help keep your skin soft and flexible. They prevent skin cracks. A plain moisturizer is best. Avoid moisturizers with fragrances (perfume) and a lot of extra ingredients. A good, cheap moisturizer is plain petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline). Regular use of a moisturizer can help prevent the dry skin that is common in winter.

Avoid scratching or rubbing the itchy area.

Try not to scratch the irritated area on your skin even if it itches. Scratching can break the skin. Bacteria can enter these breaks and cause infection. Moisturizing your skin will help prevent itchiness.

Continue skin care even after your skin has healed.

The area where you had the eczema may easily get irritated again, so it needs special care. Continue to follow the tips in this handout even after your skin has healed.