Unfortunately there is no known cure for eczema. However, good skin management and avoidance of likely triggers can make this distressing condition much easier to live with.
Avoiding likely triggers
Once you have identified the likely triggers for an outbreak, then exposure to these needs to be kept as low as possible. You should avoid anything which dries out the skin, such as cold air or long soaks in a hot bath. You may be advised to shower no more than once a day, or to avoid excessive hand-washing to prevent the skin from losing its natural protective layer.
Some sufferers find that their condition improves when they switch to non-biological clothes-washing powder. Care needs to be taken with bubble-baths, make-up, shampoos and detergents. Try switching to products for sensitive skin.
You may find that it is best to avoid wool in close contact with the skin. Many sufferers find it best to wear cotton or silk clothing.
Scratching will only make things worse. Scratching the affected area may cause the body to produce more histamine, which will aggravate the condition, so causing a vicious cycle of itching and scratching. Scratching might also cause the area to become infected.
Keep fingernails short and clean. Children might benefit from wearing special pyjamas which help protect the skin.
Emollients are the most common way of treating eczema. In their most simple form, a mixture of oil and water which are applied to the skin several times a day, and always after bathing. They may take the form of creams, gels or lotions. Your doctor or allergy specialist will be able to advice on the most suitable type for your condition. They should be applied even after symptoms have disappeared to help avoid a re-lapse.
Steroids and other medication
Do not apply steroids to babies or young children without advice from a health professional. For adults, low grade steroid creams, such as hydrocortisone, can generally be obtained over the counter in a pharmacy to treat persistent eczema. If symptoms persist your doctor will be able to prescribe more suitable treatments, such as higher strength steroid cream or calcineurin inhibitor creams. It is generally advised that as weak a cream as possible should be used, particularly when applying treatment to sensitive areas such as the face or genitals.
Does stress affect eczema?
Some people find that a flare-up of eczema often coincides with a period of stress. Stress can certainly cause eczema to get worse. Of course it is not possible to remove stress from our lives altogether, but these are many techniques that can be used to make our lives calmer and to help us through difficult times. Relaxation exercises, yoga or practicing mindfulness might be useful. There may be classes near where you live. If you cannot get to classes there are thousands of apps downloadable, some for free. Try to make time for exercise and try to spend a bit more time outdoors.
Regular outbreaks of eczema may be a sign that something is wrong with your life-balance. Are there changes you can make in your daily life which will help you feel less challenged? Even small changes can make a big difference.