What is eczema?
Eczema (also called “atopic dermatitis”) is a common skin condition among children. It is considered a chronic condition and effects some people into adulthood. Eczema causes skin changes that include dryness, itching, red or bumpy skin, and sometimes flaky or scaly looking skin. It is sometimes known as “the itch that rashes” due to the significant itching.
What causes eczema?
The exact cause of eczema is unknown. There is thought to be some connection between eczema, allergies, and asthma. Eczema can run in families. As eczema causes the skin to dry, irritants can get between skin cells which typically worsens the red, bumpy rash.
What can I do at home to improve my eczema?
There are many things that you can do at home to improve eczema.
- Avoid things that trigger your eczema. Triggers vary from person to person but can include harsh or fragrant soaps, sweating, dry or cold air, rough clothing, stress, or allergens.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! A thick lubricant (Vaseline, Eucerin, Aquaphor, etc) should be generously applied to the skin at least twice per day and as needed throughout the day. A great time to apply moisturizer is after a 10-15 minute warm (not hot) bath. The thicker, the better - so choose a cream or ointment, rather than a lotion.
- Avoid harsh or fragrant soaps. Soap is generally considered bad for eczema. You may use a gentle soap to keep clean. We recommend a Dove Sensitive bar. A non-soap cleanser, such as Cetaphil, is another option. Soaking in soapy water or bubble baths can worsen eczema.
- Keep fingernails clean and short to avoid skin infections from scratching.
What medications are used for eczema?
The primary medication used to treat eczema is topical (applied to the skin) steroids. Topical steroids reduce the inflammation on the skin that eczema causes. While the routine skin care guidelines above are followed to maintain good skin, topical steroids are used for eczema flares. Topical steroids come in varied strengths from weak to super potent. Different strengths may be selected depending on the area of skin and severity of eczema. In general, topical steroids are applied twice per day by gently rubbing the medication onto clean, dry skin. The medicated cream or ointment can be applied underneath your usual moisturizer. Some areas of the skin are too thin to use topical steroids, such as the eyelids and groin, and topical steroids should be avoided on or near mucous membranes such as the mouth, eyes, and genitals.
How will Amherst Pediatrics help me manage my eczema?
Most eczema can be successfully managed by your primary care provider, avoiding a trip to the dermatologist. At Amherst Pediatrics, we can assess your eczema and make recommendations for treatment. We can prescribe and counsel you on the use of topical steroids if needed to manage your eczema. We can also monitor and treat any complications, such as local skin infections, that may occur because of eczema.