Dermatologists can help you manage eczema by helping you to look after your skin as a whole. Striving for naturally healthy skin can be difficult when faced with a condition such as eczema but many sufferers see improvements when assiduously avoiding certain chemicals typically found in skin lotions, creams, soaps, and toners. Much of eczema treatment looks at enhancing overall skin health to decrease flare-ups of eczema symptoms.
Reducing toxin exposure from products applied to the skin may help you to reduce your reliance on eczema medications designed to lower inflammation. Good natural skin care can also relieve eczema symptoms should they arise.
Avoiding Eczema Triggers
For many people with eczema, it can help to keep a basic food and symptom diary for a few weeks to track any flare-ups and see if there are any obvious triggers. It’s also a good idea to jot down any changes in use of laundry detergents, washing up liquid, or personal care products, as well as to make a note of any changes in routine, medications, or stress levels.
Smartphone apps can help with food-tracking and symptoms, and many also have space for additional notes that can help with this kind of analysis.
Read more about removing allergens and irritants in baby eczema.
Eczema Treatment – Reducing Itchiness and the Urge to Scratch
It is extremely beneficial to reduce skin-scratching when trying to manage eczema. This can help reduce the risk of skin infections. Some people with eczema find it helps to keep their fingernails short (also, be sure to keep fingernails clean to reduce infection!). In some cases, it can help to wear thin cotton gloves at night to avoid scratching in your sleep.
Cold compresses can also help to relieve skin inflammation and the urge to itch. Wrap an ice pack in a tea towel and apply this to the itchy area of skin for a few minutes to relieve the itchiness.
In addition, there are many natural remedies for itchy skin relief that can be added as a compress, in the bathtub, or in the form of a lotion or cleanser. Some of these include:
- Oatmeal (in a compress or in the bath)
- Bleach (can help prevent infection in eczema-prone skin) – add 1/2 cup of bleach for a full tub of water and mix well. Soak for 10 minutes then rinse skin with clean lukewarm water
- Coconut and/or jojoba oil
- Calendula (marigold flowers)
- Vegetable (not animal) glycerin – Mix a 1-1 ratio of glycerin and water in a spray bottle and spray on skin as needed
- Witch hazel (mixed with green clay, perhaps)
- Borage (starflower) oil.
Staying Hydrated to Keep Eczema at Bay
Keeping the skin hydrated is extremely important for eczema sufferers as this can help prevent the skin from cracking and feeling even itchier. A humidifier in the home may help although the atmosphere should not be damp as this may encourage the growth of moulds which can themselves at as allergens for eczema sufferers. Moisturising two or three times each day is advised for many patients although the lotions used should be natural skin lotions which are alcohol-free, paraben-free, unfragranced and with no added colours or dyes.
Antihistamines for eczema
Many patients rely on antihistamine medications to control their symptoms of eczema and these can be effective in reducing the itchiness of their skin and other allergy symptoms. Antihistamines may be bought over the counter without a prescription or obtained through the doctor.
It is important to remember that some antihistamines can cause drowsiness so should not be used when driving or when the patient needs to be fully alert. These antihistamines may, however, be useful for those who scratch their skin in their sleep. Non-drowsy antihistamines are also available over the counter, such as fexofenadine (Allegra), loratadine (Claritin, Alavert), and cetirizine (Zyrtec). Many of these have an expensive brand-name product which is no different from the generic drug.
Antihistamines can have side-effects other than drowsiness, with some people experiencing dizziness, headaches, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal (stomach) upset, changes in vision, mood swings and irritability, and a dry mouth and nose. Sometimes these side-effects are shortlived and wear off as a person becomes used to the medication. Where the symptoms persist or are severe the patient should seek medical assistance and an alternative antihistamine or eczema treatment may be prescribed. Severe side-effects of antihistamines can include respiratory (breathing) problems, irregular heartbeat or a pounding heart, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and problems with urination. Should these occur the patient should seek immediate medical attention and stop taking the antihistamine as a precaution.
Antihistamine medications for eczema may not be suitable for all sufferers and it is important to let the prescribing physician of pharmacist know of any history of glaucoma, stomach ulcers, heart disease, high blood pressure, seizures, thyroid overactivity, lung problems, and difficulty urinating (due to an enlarged prostate, for example). Patients may experience disruptions in orthostatic blood pressure regulation resulting in dizziness when standing up too quickly. Rising slowly from a seated position or after lying down is advised.
Elderly patients with eczema who are taking antihistamines may be more sensitive to the side-effects of such medication and may be advised against their use due to other medical conditions and medication. Children under twelve years of age are usually not recommended to take long-acting forms of antihistamines and those under six should not be given these drugs without doctor’s approval. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should be cautious with the use of antihistamines for eczema as the medication can be excreted through breast milk and may interfere with foetal development.