Eczema’s intense itching can be a serious challenge. It can keep you up at night and lead to skin damage. If you have it, you just want it to stop.
Your doctor can help you find the right treatments to control the condition, but try these tips at home to fight the itch.
Dry skin is itchy. When you have eczema, your skin doesn’t hold in moisture very well on its own.
But some simple steps will help keep it hydrated:
- Bathe right. Make the water in your shower or bath warm, not hot. Use a mild soap or cleanser with a low pH. Your skin will soak in moisture best if you stay in the tub for less than 10 minutes. Try adding half a cup of bleach to a full bath -- it kills bacteria that could be making your eczema worse. Or a packet of colloidal oatmeal in the water may feel soothing, too.
- Seal in moisture. Moisturize as soon as you get out of the tub or shower, while your skin is still wet. Ointments and thick creams work better than lotions to lock in water. Rub it all over several times a day, and reapply to your hands every time you wash them.
- Ask your doctor about wet wraps. They may recommend these if your itch is really bad. After you moisturize, cover the itchy skin with wet gauze or fabric, then wrap it with plastic wrap. You can leave it on for several hours.
- Humidify. A household humidifier can help in dry climates and in winter when your heat is on.
Avoid Itch Triggers
For most people, eczema is a cycle. It flares up, quiets down when you treat it, then flares up again. If you can pinpoint what causes your flares, you may be able to stop the itching before it starts. Common triggers include:
- Wool. Wear soft clothing made of cotton or silk. Avoid other scratchy fabrics, too.
- Toiletries. Ingredients in everything from shampoo to sunscreen can make you itch. Choose hypoallergenic products without perfumes, dyes, or preservatives.
- Household chemicals. Detergents and solvents can trigger eczema. Protect your skin by wearing gloves when you clean or work with chemicals. Natural cleaning products can also trigger eczema, but see if you can tolerate them.
- Allergens. Avoid pollen, mold, and pet dander. Food allergies usually don’t affect eczema in adults, but talk to your doctor if you notice that a specific food seems to bother you.
- Sweat. It’s hard to avoid sweating, but try to wash it off quickly when you do.
- Stress. Your body has a harder time protecting itself when you’re under stress, and that affects your skin. Get enough sleep and find ways to relax on a regular basis.
Your mother may have told you scratching a rash will only make it worse. That’s true with eczema, too. It increases inflammation, which makes you itch even more. Over time, skin that’s constantly irritated can get thick and leathery.
Scratching can also cause an infection. If you tend to scratch at night while you sleep, you could wear cotton gloves to bed to protect your skin. And keep your nails short.
If good skin care just doesn’t give you relief, your doctor may recommend stronger treatments. You may have to try a few options before you find some that help you, but keep working together with your doctor.