Eczema is a chronic condition where the sufferers’ skin overreacts to certain triggers such as food, weather conditions, pollen and stress. The symptoms are dry, scaly, itchy, cracked and red skin skin. It can result in inflamed blisters and patches of thickened skin. Eczema often appears on the elbows, arms, wrists, cheeks, back of the neck and knees.
The skin is the body’s largest organ and serves as a barrier to protect the body from harmful environmental effects. However, eczema sufferers have a reduced protective barrier because the lipid layer of the skin is broken down. This causes the skin to become dry and vulnerable to irritants. Researchers have found that eczema typically runs in families. It is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Though dry winter skin is the hardest time for many eczema suffers, summertime heat can wreak havoc too. Although there is no cure for eczema, it usually flares up in response to irritants or stress and then subsides again. It is important to not only treat the symptoms but also to use a product that moisturizes the skin while restoring its protective barrier.
To help prevent bouts of eczema and to soothe the itching, try these tips:
- Avoid hot baths and take a shower instead.
- Use mild, gentle soaps instead of perfumed soaps, bubble baths or scented creams.
- For moisturizing, use a rich hypoallergenic emollient one or more times a day. Apply generously to keep the skin moist and prevent it from cracking.
- Control the temperature of your bedroom and keep it fresh and cool to avoid sweating while you sleep. Use a humidifier to moisten the air during the dry season.
- Rinse off with lukewarm water immediately after exercising or swimming in a chlorinated pool and then apply a moisturizing cream.
- Avoid antibacterial skin products.
- Wear cotton clothing instead of wool or nylon.
- Try to avoid stress and leave time for a good night’s rest.
- Since nicotine leads to eczema flare-ups, avoid smoking.
If you suspect you have a particular allergy, try to figure out which irritants are to blame and avoid them. Consider taking an allergy test to find out what triggers your allergic reactions, contributing to eczema.
A doctor might also prescribe a mild topical steroid. These function to moisturize the skin as emollients do, while at the same time stimulating the skin’s repair mechanism. If the skin successfully rebuilds its protective barrier by replenishing the missing lipids, future flare-ups will be averted.