Coping with Eczema
Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that makes the skin red and itchy. It often affects children but can appear at any age. In many cases it is associated with asthma and/or seasonal allergies. There is currently no cure for eczema but with proper skin care and appropriate therapy this condition can be easily managed. In many cases, as younger patients get older they often outgrow their symptoms and their eczema goes away. For some, it stays with you throughout your lifetime.
Proper skin care is essential in controlling the potential flare ups that you may experience. Many flare ups can be seasonal, peaking with the cold dry weather of the winter but also flaring around the changing of the seasons. Fall and spring can also be a difficult time for many patients. Patients should practice proper skin year round to control the potential for flare ups. Although good skin care is vital, it is not a cure for eczema and flares can still occur.
Skin care for eczema sufferers should always begin with very basic bland products. Gentle cleansing with products such as Dove soap, or soap free cleansers (Cetaphil, CeraVe, Aveeno, Eucerin) is key. Emollients or moisturizer are also a staple. Avoid products with fragrance and dyes. Cetaphil, Aveeno, CeraVe and Aquaphor are excellent choices and most commonly suggested by me. You should moisturize all of your skin once to twice daily, especially after a bath or shower. Speaking of bathing, avoid hot water and try to take lukewarm quick showers. When you are finished you should rub a moisturizer into your skin while it is still a little damp.
Treatment of eczema often requires the use of prescribed topical medications and oral anti-histamines to help manage the itching. Topical steroid medications are a great first line in quickly managing the flare up, but are not something that should be used long term. Their are some steroid-free topical medicines that are sometimes good choices for certain patients. These products are creams and ointments such Eucrisa, Elidel and Protopic.
Bleach baths can be beneficial in managing chronic eczema sufferers symptoms. For difficult to manage cases, we often recommend this practice to my patients. With an appropriate amount of bleach in your tub you can effectively manage some of the symptoms and flare ups. Is this safe? The answer is: YES! We would advise you how much bleach to add to your tub water to convert your bath water into the equivalent of chlorine pool water. Soaking in a bleach bath a few times per week has shown good results for many of my patients.
On occasion it may be beneficial to see an Allergist to have further testing done to determine specific triggers that may cause your flareups. This is something we can discuss if we see a need.