Living with eczema can be hard, but that doesn't mean you have to let it wear you down. Here are ways that would help prevent eczema flare-ups.
1. Know what triggers your flare-ups.
Before anything else, it is most important to take note of what triggers eczema and eliminate factors that may exacerbate flare-ups. These include harsh soaps, detergents, certain chemicals, jewelry, smoke, abrasive clothing and exposure to extremes of temperature and humidity.
2. Limit contact with irritants.
Patients with eczema (atopic dermatitis) are more susceptible to irritants than are unaffected individuals. Alcohol and astringents found in toiletries can have a drying effect on the skin. Bath soaps can contain fragrances, which can also exacerbate flare-ups. A fragrance-free bath soap with neutral ph is therefore recommended. Wash new clothing items before wearing them to decrease levels of formaldehyde and other added chemicals. Use liquid, rather than powder detergent, and add a second rinse cycle to facilitate removal of detergent.
3. Consider environmental living conditions.
Humidity and perspiration are several factors that could also cause flare-ups and should therefore be properly addressed. Try to keep children's activities as normal as possible. Keep in mind that certain sports may be better tolerated than others. Swimming is a good alternative because it does not involve heavy perspiration, physical contact or tight clothing. However, it is important to take a shower after going out of the pool to get rid of chlorine in pool water which may irritate the skin.
4. Use sunscreen.
Ultraviolet light may be beneficial to some patients with eczema however too much sun may cause sunburn. Use a sunscreen to help protect your skin. Be sure to choose a non-irritating product since some sunscreens may contain irritants.
5. Identify specific allergens that may exacerbate the eczema.
Infants and young children are more likely to have food allergies. Older children and adults are more likely to react to environmental and aeroallergens (allergens present in the air) which include dust mites, animal danders, molds and pollens. Potential allergens can be identified through food challenge tests or skin prick tests. Avoidance of food implicated in controlled food challenge tests usually results in clinical improvement. In patients allergic to dust mites, use of dust mite-proof encasings of pillows and mattresses, weekly washing of bed linens in hot water, removal of bedroom carpeting, and using air conditioner in decreasing the room’s humidity are proven to be also effective.
6. Wear loose cotton clothing.
Clothing made of cotton are ideally recommended for patients with eczema since synthetic fabrics, wool, and other materials with rough texture can also trigger eczema flare-ups.
7. Avoid emotional stressors.
Although emotional stressors do not cause eczema, it can exacerbate the illness. Some patients oftentimes react to frustration, embarrassment or other stressful events with increased itching and scratching. Psychological counseling can be beneficial for patients, who have difficulty in dealing with emotional triggers, most especially in adolescents, who consider their skin disease disfiguring. Relaxation and behavioral modification are helpful in patients with habitual scratching.
8. Don’t scratch the itch.
The more you scratch, the more it itches. It then becomes a never-ending cycle. Scratching can produce breaks in the skin, making it easier for bacteria and other allergens to penetrate the skin leading to worsening of the condition. Reduction of skin inflammation and dryness with topical glucocorticoids and skin hydration often symptomatically reduce the itching. Application of cold compress over the affected area also helps lessen itching, as well as the desire to scratch.
Eczema is associated with abnormalities in skin barrier function resulting to "cracks" in the skin that serve as entry points for bacteria, irritants and allergens. Impaired barrier function also leads to dry, itchy skin. The mainstay treatment for patients with eczema is hydration and moisturization to improve barrier function. Lukewarm soaking baths for at least 20 minutes followed by the application of an occlusive emollient to retain moisture can give patients excellent symptomatic relief. The use of an effective emollient, coupled with hydration therapy helps restore the skin barrier. Moisturizers come in different forms--lotions, creams, or ointments. Care should be used in choosing what moisturizer to use, since some of them contain ingredients that can also be irritating to the skin.
10. Stick to the regimen prescribed by your doctor.
Trust the advice of your dermatologist. Constant communication, adherence to the treatment regimen, and vigilance help a lot in keeping eczema flare-ups away.