Management of Eczema

PART 4: MANAGEMENT OF ECZEMA 

4.1 What can people with eczema do to help themselves? 

Do everything to try and keep the skin in good condition. This includes the use of emollients (see Section 3.1.1), avoiding soaps and detergents which tend to dry the skin out, and staying away from irritating substances such as motor fuels, household cleaners, etc. 

Avoid anything which you know aggravates your eczema. This may include clothes containing certain fabrics, certain foods or certain cosmetics. 

Avoid scratching as it damages the skin, increases the risk of infection and makes the skin even more sore. Make sure nails are cut very short and filed smooth. 

Applying a thick coat of nail polish on and under the nail tips cuts down on scratch damage. Don’t try this if you are allergic to the chemicals in nail polish! 

To try and reduce the itch apply a soothing cream, keep the skin cool, wear cotton clothes, apply a cold compress. Bath oils are available which contain anti-pruritic (anti-itching) additives. 

4.2 What is the role of stress in eczema? 

As with many illnesses stress does not cause eczema but it may make it worse. Therefore anything a person with eczema can do to reduce stress, such as relaxation or meditation, may help the eczema. 

4.3 What role does diet play in eczema? 

This is a somewhat controversial question as not even all doctors seem to agree. However, many people with eczema say that certain foods seem to make their eczema worse. 

To establish a link between certain foods and eczema it may be useful to keep a diary of what foods are eaten and the severity of the eczema. If for example it turned out that chocolate exacerbated the condition then the obvious solution would be to avoid chocolate and see if this helped. 

In general, however, it is not advisable to exclude certain foods from the diet except under medical supervision as it would be easy to eliminate vital nutrients. This is particularly important when dealing with eczema in children. 

There does seem to be evidence that breast-fed babies are less likely to develop infantile eczema than those fed on formulas based on cows milk. 

4.4 What type of clothing and bed linen is best for people with eczema? 

In general, people with eczema find that cotton clothing and bed linen is more comfortable than that made from synthetic fibres. It feels cooler and allows the skin to breathe more easily, thus reducing the skin’s itchiness. 

Some people find that clothes containing wool can aggravate eczema or even produce eczema on previously unaffected skin. 

For people with atopic eczema (or asthma or hay fever) it may be helpful to eliminate the house-dust mite. Special bed covers can be bought which trap the house-dust mites. 

4.5 Are there any non-irritating laundry and dish detergents? 

The following are suggested as being less irritant than standard laundry detergents: 

    * Novon Free 
    * Cheer Free 
    * Bounce Free 
    * All Free Liquid, hypo-allergenic 
    * Earthrite non-allergenic liquid laundry detergent 

Remember that what works for one person may not work for you. 

Another suggestion is to do the laundry twice. First with the detergent and again without detergent. 

A suggested dish detergent is Dawn Free. 

4.6 Is there any sun protection suitable for people with eczema? 

    * Neutrogena Chemical-free Sunblock SPF 17 
    * Sun E-45 

4.7 Are there any shampoos suitable for people with eczema? 

    * Simple Shampoo 
    * Denorex 
    * Alphosyl 
    * Polytar 
    * T-Gel 

4.8 Are there any other hints and tips? 

In addition to the commonly used treatments many people find their own methods of managing eczema. Some examples follow, but remember that what works for one person may not work for you, and could even make things worse. 

Collagen-Elastin cream applied 5-6 times per day. 

Distributed by: 

St Ives Laboratories Inc. 
Los Angeles 
CA 91311 

Available at drug stores, about $4.19 per 16 oz tub. 

Anthisan cream, made by May & Baker, is for the relief from pain, itching and inflammation in insect bites and stings and nettle rash and it should not be used for eczema or on extensively broken skin surfaces. 

However, it has been used effectively by one person for many years to deal with itching. 

The active ingredient is Mepyramine Maleate 2% w/w. 

Aloe Vera juice, the sort made for drinking, has a healing effect when applied to the skin. Some people find that it irritates the skin. 

Some people pierce an evening primrose oil capsule and squeeze the oil directly onto the affected skin.