Dr. Liddle shares some Practical tips to help take the itch out of eczema.
Eczema is a common skin problem that can affect people of all ages. It is estimated that about 11% of Americans are affected by this disease. Many people see this as a minor problem, but recent studies have shown that it can decrease the quality of life by interfering with school, work, and socializing.
Over the last 20 years I have found it is not the medications that control this disease but good skin care. If itching is not controlled then, eczema will continue. Eczema does not have a quick fix and treatment can be ongoing for years.
I encourage my patients to take a 10-20 minute soaking bath daily until their fingers prune. A small amount of oil can be added for moisturizing. If you have recurrent Staph problems adding ½ cup of bleach to a tub of water two to three times a week or applying a Hibiclens wash weekly after bathing may reduce infections. I recommend Dove soap or cleansers like Cetaphil, Aquaphor, and Cerave to clean dirty areas.
After bathing the body should be patted dry, then moisturizer and topical medications applied to the damp skin. Many steroid medications are available. Ointments work better than creams especially for those with dry skin. Steroids come in many strengths and should be changed with the severity of your symptoms. Mild steroids are recommended for sensitive areas like the face and groin. I prefer creams for moisturizing because lotions can contain alcohol which worsens dry skin. My favorite moisturizer is lard; it is cheap and has no fragrances or chemicals that may irritate the skin. I have found mixing lard and the topical steroid medication will eliminate burning when applied to the skin.
If itching is a problem, then wet and dry dressings will improve the effectiveness of the medications and decrease itching. Socks, thermal underwear, thin pajamas and Kerlix gauze are just a few items that can be used for dressings. Soak the item in warm water, wring out and wear over “hot spots” after medications have been applied. Cover with a dry dressing. These are used most often at night before bedtime, but can be applied during the day for severe flares.
As eczema improves your doctor will guide you on step down medications and their frequency. Many patients only use their medications 2-3 times weekly to be well controlled.
Any triggers that have been identified, such as foods and dust mites should be avoided. Wearing of cotton clothing with avoidance of wool and synthetic materials will decrease itching. Dreft, Tide Free, or All Free laundry detergents along with double rinsing and no fabric softeners are recommended for washing clothes.
Once itching is controlled symptoms will improve rapidly. It may take several months for skin color to return to normal, but taking the itch out of eczema will put you or your loved one on the path to great looking skin.
To learn more about eczema and how to find relief, go to allergyparnters.com or visit your trusted Allergy Partners physician.
Katherine Liddle, MD
Allergy Partners of Anderson