Eczema or dermatitis, is a condition where your skin becomes sensitive and inflamed as part of an allergic reaction, this is called atopy and you may hear this condition being called atopic eczema or dermatitis as a result. Atopic eczema often runs in families and you have over a fifty percent chance of developing eczema if both of your parents had it.
You may also find that our eczema flares every now and then and if this is the case you may find that your eczema has triggers. The most recognised triggers are stress, hormone changes associated with pregnancy and the menstrual cycle, sweat, rough clothing, dry skin and perfumes and other irritant chemicals. Fortunately, in the majority of cases your eczema often settles in its severity as you get older.
The very first step in treating your eczema is to keep your skin moist and well hydrated. If you can manage to stop your skin getting dry and cracked, you will help to manage the exposure your skin has to the allergens and hopefully control the inflammation and itching as a result. You want to be using basic moisturisers with no added perfume or “extras”. Your pharmacist can advise on these. Moisturisers need to be applied regularly throughout the day and I often advise to apply moisturisers to babies every time their nappy is changed. This extra time spent keeping your skin well hydrated will pay dividends on your eczema control.
I would recommend that you do not apply steroid creams to your face or to children without a review with your Doctor. As your eczema is driven by allergy, you may find some benefit from anti-histamines. Remember that anti-histamines come in both drowsy and non-drowsy forms and you should make sure you pick the right one, especially if you are planning on working, driving, looking after children or operating machinery whilst taking it.
Having other allergy-based conditions like asthma and hayfever will also increase your chances of having eczema. Your genetics may make your more likely to develop your allergy but there are known allergens like house dust mites, pet fur and pollen that your skin often becomes allergic to. Eczema can also develop as a result of food allergy of which eggs, milk, nuts, soya and wheat are the most common.
You can also get hold of a mild steroid cream if the moisturisers fail to fully control your symptoms, you want to be applying this only to the worst affected areas, thinly up to twice a day and for a maximum of one or two weeks. Do not apply it broken or raw skin. The cream is called hydrocortisone and is available as a one percent strength.
Take a look at my short video series on eczema: http://www.askdocjames.com/medical-conditions/eczema/
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