Topical steroids have been around for years, and physicians often prescribe them to patients to help clear up eczema flare ups. You can work with your doctor to know the right topical steroid to use depending on the site, extent, and severity of your rashes. Many people fear using topical steroids, but if you know how to apply your cream, lotion, or ointment, there is no cause for worry. Here are some tips on how to correctly apply topical steroids.

1. Topical steroids are commonly applied once or twice daily (as indicated in the product insert). Using them more frequently do not hasten improvement of rashes but increases risk for side effects.

2. Apply the cream/ointment only on the rashes. Do not apply on parts of the skin that are clear. Do not use topical steroids like a lotion or moisturizer.

3. Do not apply emollient and steroid cream at the same time. Give about a half hour time interval between applications to give skin time to absorb the medication.

4. Fingertip units can be a practical way of knowing how much cream/ ointment to use. A fingertip unit is defined as the amount that can be squeezed from the fingertip to the first crease of the finger. One fingertip unit typically covers one hand (front and back side of the hand). The face and neck would require about two to four fingertip units per application.

5. Parts of the body where skin is thin like the face and genital areas absorb more topical steroids so physicians generally prescribe a mild steroid for these areas.

6. The elderly and children generally have more delicate skin therefore milder steroids are usually prescribed to them.

7. It is important to remember to discontinue or decrease application of the topical steroids once rashes are under control.

Patients and parents of children with eczema often find that application of emollients and topical medication can be time-consuming, and a lot of effort is needed to keep their skin healthy looking. They may also be wary of the side effects that topical steroids may cause, preventing them to use this form of medication. Keep in mind that side effects may be avoided as long as you use topical steroids correctly.

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