Chemicals: Air Fresheners, Cleaning Supplies, and Smoke
To steer clear of chemicals that can make eczema itchy and to keep your skin happy:
Wear cotton lined gloves when cleaning.
Don't use air fresheners or perfume.
Stay away from smoke, and if you do smoke, now is a great time to kick the habit.
Hot Water: Turn It Down and Lotion Up
Choose lukewarm or cool water instead of hot to keep skin calmer after handwashing and showers. When you’re done washing, gently pat skin -- don't rub -- until it’s just damp. Then, slather on thick lotion right away to lock in moisture. Allergic to wool? Check the ingredients label of your lotion. Lanolin will irritate your skin. For people without a wool allergy, lanolin helps.
The Sun, Sweat, and Sunscreen
You can be out in the sun, but your skin may not like getting hot and sweaty. If that’s the case, stay cool and seek out shade. Always wear sunscreen. Sunburns inflame your skin and can lead to an eczema flare. If you’re sensitive to sunscreens, block out burning rays with mineral versions, like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Sunscreens made for the face may also give you gentle protection.
Clothes: Scratchy, Synthetic, New, Dry Cleaned
Loose, breathable cotton clothes may be your best bet. Wool and mohair can be prickly. Synthetic materials like polyester, nylon, and rayon can make you sweaty. Wash clothes before wearing them to help get rid of dye or chemicals used to keep them wrinkle-free at the store. Do you dry-clean? Take the plastic bags off and air them out for 24 hours if the chemicals bother you.
Detergents, Soaps, and Shampoos
Whether you're washing your body or your clothes, think gentle. Choose laundry detergent made for babies or sensitive skin, like fragrance-free types. Use only the amount suggested. If needed, rinse them twice. Skip fabric softeners and scented dryer sheets. For showers, pick a non-soap cleanser that is mild and fragrance-free. Shampoos are also available in clear, pH neutral, fragrance-free versions.
Flaring? Try relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or biofeedback. Anxiety and stress can make skin conditions like eczema worse. How? When you’re tense, your body’s stress hormones cause inflammation that irritates your skin. Even physical stress -- like when you're fighting a cold -- can take a toll. So take good care of yourself and make sure you get enough sleep on a regular basis.
If you’re allergic to pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and mold- try to avoid them. At home, dust and vacuum regularly and wash bedding weekly in hot water. If possible, get rid of heavy drapes and carpeting. If certain chores irritate your skin, now may be your chance to ask for help or hire some! If you’re still having allergy woes, talk to your doctor about other ways to get relief.
Some studies suggest that food sensitivities might make eczema worse -- especially for babies and children. Peanuts, milk, soy, wheat, fish, and eggs are the most common culprits. Because kids need a well-rounded diet, don't stop giving them foods you think might be causing eczema flares. Talk to a pediatrician or dermatologist first. They can do tests for food allergies.
Does your skin get worse in the winter? The heater in your home keeps you warm, but it can suck the moisture right out of the air. When the air is dry, moisturize your skin regularly. If you live in a dry place, you may want to consider using a humidifier. If you do, clean it, as directed, at least once a week. Mold can thrive in humidifiers and make eczema worse for some people.
Exercise and Sweat
Working out is great for you and can help relieve stress. However, sweat from exercise can be aggravate the skin. Don’t let that keep you from moving! To keep cool, take breaks during workouts, don’t over-dress, and sip water when you get hot. Try exercising indoors or during cooler parts of the day. Remember to gently dab off sweat. Swimming can also help keep you cool, but be sure to shower and moisturize afterward since chlorine may be irritating.
Drool and Saliva
Prevent patches of eczema on your baby’s cheeks, chin, neck, and around her mouth by smoothing on a thick layer of moisturizing ointment before she eats or sleeps.
Are you itching worse than normal? Do you have more red patches? See your dermatologist. Having a bacterial or yeast infection on your skin -- like staph or candida -- can make your eczema flare. A doctor can prescribe antibiotics to help with bacterial infections and antifungal medicines to help yeast infections. That way you can tame that flare and feel better.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
1) Maciej Toporowicz, NYC / Flickr Collection / Getty
2) Colin Walton
3) Studio 504 / Digital Vision
4) DKAR Images
5) Caliphoto / E+
6) RunPhoto / The Image Bank
7) Konrad Wothe
8) Stuart Minzey / Photographer's Choice RF
9) Nacivet / Photographer's Choice
10) yellowdog / Cultura
11) Stuart McClymont / Stone
12) N. Aubrier / age fotostock
American Academy of Dermatology: "Atopic dermatitis: Tips for managing," "Who gets and causes."
DermNet NZ: "Atopic Dermatitis Causes."
National Eczema Association: "Bathing & Moisturizing," "All About Atopic Dermatitis."
National Eczema Society: "Itching & Scratching."
NSH: "Atopic eczema - Causes."
Amy S. Paller, MD, chair, Department of Dermatology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Suarez, A. Acta Dermateo-Venereologica, January 2012.
University of Rochester Medical Center: "Living with Eczema."
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.