The Basic Approach to Eczema
Many dermatologists recommend a “soak and seal” approach to eczema treatment and prevention:
- Wash in lukewarm water
- Use a mild cleanser on the area
- Pat dry
- Use a moisturizer that does not have an alcohol base
Moisturization is key," says dermatologist Heather Woolery-Lloyd, MD, of the University of Miami Cosmetic Center. "Gentle cleansers like Dove, Cetaphil, or CeraVe are best, followed by good moisturizers. Topical steroids are used in more severe cases."
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, most cases of eczema will improve if you take care of your skin and make some lifestyle changes.
Don’t Make Your Eczema Worse
Follow these steps to keep your eczema under control:
- Stay cool and avoid sweating. Sweat can irritate the skin.
- Keep skin moisturized.
- Wash new clothes before wearing them. The chemicals used in manufacturing clothing can be aggravating to people with eczema.
- Wear loose, cotton-blend clothes that let your skin "breathe."
- Remove clothing labels and tagsthat can scratch and irritate skin.
- Use detergents made for "sensitive skin" (meaning they're fragrance- and dye-free).
- Wash bedding often to reduce dust mites.
- Manage your stress. Stress may not cause eczema but, along with anger and frustration, can make it worse and more difficult to manage because stress affects your body's ability to respond to irritation and inflammation in a healing way.
Be sure to see your doctor if:
- You notice signs of infection, such as crusting, scabbing, a sensation of warmth, and worsening skin redness.
- The eczema won’t go away after you have tried to manage it at home.
- Eczema is affecting your quality of life, such as interfering with sleep or your ability to socialize.
Medication for Eczema
If your doctor decides to prescribe a medication to help control your eczema, you might be given:
- Immunomodulating creams, such as tacrolimus ointment, which work by controlling swelling and blunting the immune system's response to allergens.
- Corticosteroids, which have been used for decades to treat eczema. You will probably start with a prescription steroid cream; if that doesn’t work, you may be given a steroid to take by mouth.
- Antibiotics, which are used to address related infections of the skin.
- Antihistamines, which are largely helpful if itching keeps you awake at night.
Use this information to treat troublesome symptoms of eczema and you could soon be free to enjoy your days (and nights) again!