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Soothing the Symptoms of Eczema

Allergy image

One common skin condition, especially in some infants and children, is atopic dermatitis, or eczema. Atopic dermatitis is difficult to treat – but it can be controlled. Atopic dermatitis can be triggered by a number of factors, including allergy and emotional stress. It involves high levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), the major allergy antibody, and is related to the development of other allergies, such as allergic rhinitis and asthma, in most children.

In some people, inhaled allergens (such as dust mites, animal dander, and pollen) can cause flare-ups of atopic dermatitis. A bacterial, fungal, or viral infection also can cause a flare-up. Food allergies may trigger an episode in children, but rarely in adults. Atopic dermatitis is not contagious. Sometimes, though, scratching can lead to a bacte­rial infection.

Treating Eczema
Treatment begins with efforts to reduce the itching and inflammation, hydrating the skin, and removing the “flare factors,” such as infections and exposure to allergens and irritants. To soothe symptoms, bathe in warm (not hot) water for no more than three to five minutes. Use superfatted, unscented soap or a soap substitute. Pat your skin dry, and promptly apply a mois­turizer to help keep the skin hydrated. Trim fingernails to reduce problems from scratching. At night, cotton socks or gloves can be worn to prevent scratch­ing while asleep. If the rash is oozing, your doctor may prescribe a lotion to dry the rash and an antibiotic to treat infection. If the rash is on the face, do not use a corticosteroid product.

Atopic dermatitis can be triggered by a number of factors, including allergy and emotional stress.

Use a humidifier in the winter to keep skin from drying out, and avoid chemi­cals and extreme heat or cold, which can worsen eczema. Use cosmetics lightly and seldom, and avoid products with perfume, dyes, and ingredients such as urea, lactic acid, or other alpha hydroxy acids.

Avoid wool, polyester, wrinkle-resistant, flame-retardant, and scratchy fabrics in clothes and bedding. Instead, wear open-weave, loose-fitting cotton or cotton-blend garments. Wash new clothes before wearing them with mild, unscented liquid laundry detergent. Avoid liquid fabric softeners and dryer sheets. Rinse clothing and bedding thoroughly after washing to remove detergent residue.

Reduce indoor allergens, particularly dust mites, by washing bedding in hot water and removing rugs, upholstered furniture, stuffed toys, and curtains where possible. Wear gloves when doing housework. If a link with food has been diagnosed, eliminate it from your diet.

Avoid stress, which can add to flare-ups. People often feel angry and frustrated by the chronic itching. Know that with proper treatment the condition can be controlled.

Topical steroids are key for control­ling the itching and inflammation of eczema. Used immediately after bath­ing, they also help keep the skin hydrated. Antihistamines and antianxiety medi­cations may also help relieve itching. Antibiotics are used to treat complicat­ing skin infections.


Source: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America,

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, Winter 2011-2012.