Stop the itch-scratch cycle. Learn the signs of eczema and how to help it.
WHAT IS ECZEMA?
Eczema is the name for a group of conditions that cause the skin to become red, itchy and inflamed. Over 30 million Americans have some form of eczema. The most common form of eczema is Atopic Dermatitis. Though eczema can appear anywhere on the body, common body sites are the hands and feet, the inside bend of the elbows, behind the knees, and around the ankles and wrists. Eczema can also appear on the face, particularly the cheeks, and on the neck and upper chest. The skin around the eyes, including eyelids, may also be affected. The diaper area is usually spared. Scratching can cause redness and swelling and further worsening of symptoms, particularly itch.
LIVING WITH ECZEMA
The cause of eczema is not completely understood, but it is believed that it is genetic. Though it generally starts in childhood, it can sometimes start well into adulthood. An estimated 10 percent of all people are at some time affected by Atopic Dermatitis.
People with eczema often have other atopic conditions, such as asthma or hay fever. While there is no cure, good daily skin care is essential to managing the condition and begins with a daily regimen of bathing and moisturizing the skin.
THE “ITCH-SCRATCH” CYCLE
When the skin becomes dry and irritated, it itches. Scratching triggers the release of a chemical called histamine which causes more inflammation and itching, making the rash even worse. This is known as the “itch-scratch cycle”.
While the symptoms of eczema are different for each person, eczema usually affects specific areas of skin, for example in the elbow and knee creases, around the mouth, eyelids, hands and feet. Dry, sensitive skin is a symptom of eczema, but eczema is also known for its intense itch.
MANAGING COMMON ECZEMA TRIGGERS
Identifying and avoiding triggers, as well as proper bathing and moisturizing, are an important part of managing sensitive skin and eczema.
Some things can make sensitive skin and eczema worse. They are called irritants. Over time, you’ll learn which things cause problems for you or your child. Common irritants can include:
Soaps detergents & dryer sheets
Bubble-bath & certain shampoos
Disinfectants like chlorine
Fragrances & dyes
Wool or other coarse fabrics
Your doctor may recommend:
- Washing new clothes before wearing them.
- Using dye free and fragrance-free products.
- Using sunscreens made for sensitive skin.
Some people have a reaction to indoor and outdoor allergens that can cause an allergic reaction. The result is itchy, inflamed skin. Here are some common allergens:
House dust mites
To reduce house dust mites:
- Vacuum and wet-dust the bedroom floor and furniture frequently.
- Keep soft toys to a minimum and wash often.
- Groom pets regularly to reduce pet dander.
Extremes of temperature and humidity may trigger a flare-up of sensitive skin or eczema symptoms. Environmental triggers include:
Hot or cold temperature
High or low humidity
Try to maintain an even temperature and humidity in your home.
Less than 1 in 10 children with atopic eczema have a food allergy. In general, it is young children with severe eczema who may have a food allergy. The most common foods which can trigger eczema include:
Nuts and seeds
If you suspect a food is making eczema symptoms worse, see your child’s doctor. You may be asked to keep a diary to help identify one or more suspect foods.
Stress doesn’t cause sensitive skin or eczema, but stress, anger and frustration can make symptoms worse. If your child is having problems at daycare or school, you may notice the eczema getting worse. Stress can also cause habit scratching. Scratching can actually cause more inflammation and itching, making the skin rash even worse.
Keep your child’s fingernails short. Consider cotton gloves or mittens at night if your child tends to scratch in his/her sleep.
Proper bathing and moisturizing are essential for the daily care of sensitive or eczematous skin. Moisturizers can help trap water in the skin, helping to keep it more flexible and less likely to crack. It is important to continue a regular moisturizing routine even when you’re not experiencing a flare. Mild cleansing can also help prepare the skin for topical therapies. This can help keep the barrier intact to help prevent future flares.
An effective eczema treatment regimen can help restore and strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier, helping to prevent the recurrence of itchy, dry, irritated uncomfortable skin. AVEENO® Colloidal Oatmeal formulations help seal in moisture, soothe, and restore the skin’s moisture barrier.
WHAT HELPS ECZEMA
- Use lukewarm water when washing your child.
- Use a mild, non-drying, fragrance free cleanser.
- Gently pat skin dry – don’t rub.
- Avoid body sponges and washcloths.
- Apply moisturizers to damp skin (within 3 minutes of taking a bath or shower).
- If prescribed by your child’s doctor, apply any special medications first and then liberally apply moisturizer. For some medications you may be advised to wait 15-20 minutes after applying before applying moisturizer, so be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.
- Consider using a moisturizer with colloidal oat, such as AVEENO® Baby Daily Moisture Lotion for dry, sensitive skin, and AVEENO® Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream or Eczema Therapy Nighttime Balm to help relieve the itching and irritation of eczema.
As always, talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
Solution Related Products
Experience dermatologist-recommended eczema solutions that help provide relief to eczema-prone skin.
FORTIFY YOUR SKIN’S MICROBIOME
Your skin is a diverse community of good and bad bacteria that make up its microbiome. Healthy looking skin has a balanced microbiome and preserved skin barrier. Atopic prone skin has an unbalanced microbiome and altered skin barrier, allowing vulnerability to irritants which can cause redness, flare-ups and itching.
Much like our gut relies on active probiotics and other gut bacteria to restore health, the biome of the skin needs to maintain certain bacteria for healthy looking skin. Prebiotics are food for probiotics and the microbiome. In skincare, prebiotics like colloidal oatmeal encourage the presence of good bacteria, which can help create a healthy environment for the skin microbiome.