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What Is Eczema?

What Is Eczema?

Eczema is a chronic condition that is characterized by inflammation of the skin. Like asthma, eczema can be controlled but not cured. Symptoms, flares or outbreaks are more common in children than adults. In children, symptoms can disappear at age ten only to reoccur at adulthood. Sometimes eczema can be referred to as dermatitis or atopic dermatitis.


No matter what you call it or when in life it occurs eczema causes intense itching. The itching can become so severe that the patient will scratch themselves until they bleed in an effort to bring relief.


Eczema can occur on many parts of the body. It commonly appears on the back, the hands and wrists, the neck, and the ankles. It may take many appearances. The word eczema is from a Greek word that means to boil over. This is because some eczema rashes will produce oozing and crusty skin. No matter the appearance of the skin, eczema occurs in people with dry, sensitive skin.


The exact cause of eczema is unknown. However, researchers have determined that it occurs more often in people with other immune disorders, such as asthma and allergies. Also, if a parent has eczema, it will increase the likelihood of a child having eczema. Many children with eczema will later develop environmental allergies or asthma. In addition to heredity, eczema can be triggered by a number of things such as harsh detergents, disinfectants, the chemicals found in some personal care items such as lotions and bubble baths, and the juices from some foods (such as mango).


Food allergies can also trigger eczema outbreaks. In children, the most common allergy-causing foods are dairy, nuts and seeds, and soy. Like other immune system disorders, eczema can be affected by stress, lack of sleep, poor hydration and inadequate nutrition.


Proper bathing and moisturizing routines are critical for controlling eczema. Keep in mind that the problem is not a lack of oil, but a lack of moisture retention. So, the goal is go conserve as much moisture as possible without irritating the skin. Bathe daily in warm water (not hot water) and be sure to use mild soaps. Do not scrub the skin but lightly cleanse. When drying with a towel, you want to pat the skin dry and not rub. Also, be sure to apply your moisturizer within 3 minutes of patting the skin dry. This will seal in the moisture and prevent further drying.


When picking personal care items, read labels carefully. Avoid products that have “paraben” listed as an ingredient name. Also, avoid formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers such as quertium-15. The Vanicream line of skin care products are a favorite of dermatologists. If you have eczema on your hands, be sure to reapply your moisturizer each and every time you wash your hands. When temperatures and humidity are low, be sure to re-apply moisturizer as needed to preserve moisture and serve as a barrier. Your dermatologist may recommend that you apply moisturizer just before bed and if you have hand eczema may recommend the use of cotton gloves after applying the bedtime moisturizer to you hands.


Cotton is a soft fabric and is unlikely to further irritate your skin. It is a wise choice when purchasing clothing that will be worn next to the skin. Also, look for seam-free clothing designed for eczema such as Skinnies Therapeutic Clothing. Seam-free garments will reduce friction, irritation, and the urge to itch. Silk is also another wise choice for undergarments when you have eczema. Unlike cotton, silk is temperature regulating. This means it keeps you cool when it is hot and keeps you warm when it is cold. Silk is a very strong fiber and can be woven tightly into undergarments that will not irritate the skin and will wick away perspiration so that it cannot irritate your skin.


In case of severe outbreak, your physician may prescribe a short-term medication. Antihistamines are not generally effective for controlling eczema, however the sedative effect of some antihistamines such as diphenhydramine can help bring relief if itching is so sever it interferes with sleep.


More commonly prescribed is a short-term use of corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone. Only in extreme cases is an immunosuppressant such as methotrexate used due to high risk of severe side effects.


As with all allergy-related conditions, your best control is avoidance. So, maintain a careful bathing and moisturizing routine, avoid triggers, choose the fabrics for your garments wisely, and control your exposure to low temperatures and humidity.


Wishing you the best of health
The Allergy Store

Additional Information

Allergy Store Blog - Is Eczema Seasonal?


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