Discover ways to get eczema relief

Eczema is a skin condition that can be challenging to keep in check. The good news is that no matter what type of eczema you may have, the condition is likely manageable and treatable. Here’s a closer look at eczema, its symptoms, and how you can get relief from it. 

What is eczema?

Eczema is general term for several types of this inflammatory skin condition which is characterized by dry, red, irritated and itchy skin.1 Pain, swelling, skin discoloration, scaliness and blisters are other symptoms, and they can range from mild to severe. 

According to the National Eczema Association, eczema affects more than 31 million Americans.1 Approximately 11% children and 7% of adults have eczema, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.2

What’s the most common type of eczema?

The most common form is atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema.1 Approximately 13% of children have this type of eczema.3 “It tends to start in infancy and be more severe during childhood,” says Dina Strachan, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and director of Aglow Dermatology in New York City.  

What causes eczema?

Experts don’t know exactly what causes eczema, but they can confirm it’s a condition that develops due to a mix of genes and environmental triggers. Eczema is not contagious and cannot be passed through person-to-person contact.1

“When you have atopic dermatitis, you have skin that’s drier and more sensitive,” says Mercedes E. Gonzalez, M.D., F.A.A.D., a pediatric dermatologist at Pediatric Dermatology of Miami and a spokesperson for the Society for Pediatric Dermatology. “This results in a very low threshold for flare-ups on the skin in response to many different triggers, typically from the environment,” she says.

There is a connection between allergies, hay fever, asthma and eczema. People with eczema also tend to have an overactive immune system. When their body comes in contact with an external irritant (such as an air pollutant) or experiences an internal irritant (such as everyday stress), it produces inflammation.4

What triggers an eczema flare-up?

There are dozens of possible triggers, but some of them include:5

  • Wool, polyester and nylon 
  • Dry air, cold air, hot or humid temperatures
  • Very dry skin
  • Scented or fragranced shampoos, soaps, lotions and laundry detergents 
  • Chemicals in household disinfectants, glues and adhesives 

How is it typically treated?

Gentle skin care is the first place to start. Dr. Strachan recommends using fragrance-free detergents, mild soaps and hypoallergenic moisturizers.

For mild eczema, over-the-counter lotions and moisturizers for sensitive skin are good options. When moisturizing, be sure to consider the season and current temperature. “Lotions are good to use in warmer weather. And in the winter, you might want to use something heavier such as a cream or ointment,” she says. Visit the National Eczema Association’s website to explore the list of recommended products that have their seal of acceptance – products best suited for those with eczema or sensitive skin.6

Moderate to severe eczema typically requires prescription medication, such as a topical steroidal cream or oral immunosuppressants. Another option is a biologic drug injected under your skin by a doctor. 7

If your eczema is more serious and widespread, you may be a candidate for light therapy, also called phototherapy.8 This method uses different wavelengths of ultraviolet light to reduce itchiness and inflammation. The American Academy of Dermatology says that phototherapy can reduce your child’s need for topical medicine and sometimes even clear up the skin rash completely.9

The best way to find out what may work for you is to see your health care provider or dermatologist. You can discuss the options and determine what makes the most sense as a starting point.

Tips to help with eczema

Here are some practical ways you can help with kids deal with itchiness and ease their symptoms: 

  • Bathe regularly with gentle cleanser and put moisture back into skin.10
  • Keep the water at a warm temperature – hot water further dries skin and can make eczema worse.10
  • Cool compresses to soothe any itching.11
  • Keep their fingernails short and smooth to avoid injury from scratching while sleeping. Wearing cotton gloves at night while sleeping can also help.11
  • Dress your child in soft, breathable fabrics that are 100% cotton or bamboo. The same goes for their bedding. Wash any new clothes before they wear them.11
  • Encourage your child to tap or slightly pinch the skin near the affected area instead of scratching it.11

Eczema is an itchy and sometimes painful skin condition that can affect all age groups, from babies to seniors. If members of your family have eczema, remember that treatment and relief ranges from topical creams to home remedies.

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