Self-Care for Eczema

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on April 30, 2023
3 min read

There are many over-the-counter (OTC) treatments you can use to get relief from mild eczema. Some can ease irritation, redness, itchiness, or rash. Others help avoid flare-ups or prevent itchiness that may keep you up at night.

Before you start any treatment for eczema, tell your doctor about other medications you take. Some drugs might interact with medications you already use.

Common eczema symptoms can include burning, inflammation, and pain. Your doctor may suggest that you use OTC pain relief drugs to help.

You might use:

Make sure you read the label and follow the dosage instructions.

These drugs are usually safe, but you might need to avoid them if you have:

Always talk to your doctor before you start a new medication.

With eczema, itchiness is often one of the most annoying symptoms. Antihistamines may be able to help ease it.

These drugs help stop the effects of something called histamine, which is what causes you to itch.

For antihistamines to be useful, you must take them for several weeks on a regular basis. Eventually, you won’t feel the need to scratch as often.

Topical antihistamines don’t work as well and might also cause more allergic reactions. It’s best to stick to antihistamines you take by mouth. Some of them might also include sedatives to help you sleep.

Over-the-counter antihistamines include:

Some common symptoms of these drugs include:

You and your doctor will decide if the benefits of antihistamines outweigh the potential side effects.

This is a low-strength steroid that helps lower inflammation, itching, and irritation. It can come in cream, ointment, lotion, or gel form. It can give temporary relief from rashes and itching caused by your eczema.

You can use most hydrocortisone treatments for up to a week, one to four times a day. Always follow the instructions on the package. Never use them for more than the label or your doctor recommends.

Possible side effects include:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Acne
  • Dry or cracked skin
  • Change in skin color

Always tell your doctor if you have any of these after using a hydrocortisone treatment.

You can get these over the counter to ease the dandruff caused by eczema. Most drugstores or grocery stores carry them.

They help get rid of eczema scales or prevent the growth of yeast from eczema.

Side effects of medicated shampoo are rare. But tell your doctor if you have:

  • Itching
  • Stinging
  • Burning
  • Hair loss
  • Hair and scalp dryness or oiliness
  • Headache
  • Change in hair texture
  • Scalp boils


These are moisturizers that can improve the skin barrier to keep your skin hydrated and protected from irritants. They can help improve dryness and reduce the number of flares you have.

They come in:

  • Creams
  • Ointments
  • Lotions
  • Gels
  • Sprays

There are many types of emollients, so it may take some trial and error before you find the one you like. You also might need to use different types at different times (for example, maybe a lighter one during the day and a more greasy one at night or when it's cooler).

After soaking your skin in a bath or shower, pat dry your skin gently. Then, put the emollient on your slightly wet skin right away to “lock” in the water and, thus, help with dryness.

You should test an emollient on a small area of skin first to make sure you don't have an allergic reaction. Talk to your doctor right away if you have:

  • Hives
  • A hard time breathing
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Redness or irritation where you put the emollient on