Eczema is a condition in which the skin becomes inflamed, causing itching and redness. It is also called atopic dermatitis. Eczema itself is not typically dangerous, but the itching can become bothersome. In some cases, the constant itching and scratching can also cause a skin infection. Eczema has many causes, including allergies, exposure to skin irritants and genetic predisposition. In children, there is a strong link between eczema, allergies and asthma. Many medications and other products are available to help relieve the itching caused by eczema.
Many medications–both over the counter and prescription–can be used to treat eczema rashes and stop the itching. Over-the-counter products containing hydrocortisone can be used, but doctors will often prescribe prescription-strength ointments and creams containing steroids that will help heal the skin and stop the itching. Always talk with your doctor about using steroid creams because side effects such as thinning skin are associated with their long-term use. Immunomodulators are another type of topical medicines that are very effective at treating eczema. They, too, have serious side effects associated with long-term use, so always follow your doctor’s orders. Another drug option to treat eczema is drugs taken orally, usually antihistamines or corticosteroids that will help stop the itching and inflammation. Antihistamines can be obtained over the counter, but prescription-strength products are also available.
Keeping your skin well hydrated can help treat eczema flareups and avoid future rashes. Any of the lotions, creams and moisturizers available today can be used, but thicker creams often do a better job of preventing dryness, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Avoid products containing perfumes or fragrances because they can irritate the skin. One way to help treat dry skin is to apply a moisturizing cream or lotion immediately after bathing, when the skin is still damp.
If your skin is bothering you, there are a few steps you can take at home to help relieve eczema symptoms. For example, taking a bath can help hydrate and moisturize the skin, even more so if you add colloidal oatmeal or baking soda to the water. When bathing, be sure to use lukewarm water because hot water can cause skin to dry out. Also, avoid using harsh soaps when bathing, instead opting for milder products that do not contain a lot of dyes and perfumes that can irritate the skin. In areas where the air is dry, it’s also a good idea to use a humidifier to add moisture to the air to prevent skin from drying out.