It’s easy to forget that our largest organ is our skin, and when it’s dry, itchy, inflamed and even weeping as a result of eczema, life can feel truly miserable
Atopic eczema can start at any age and it’s not contagious. In fact, you can blame your genes for the condition. It runs in families and you might also suffer from asthma or hayfever, as the conditions are linked. They’re all triggered by an allergic reaction. Allergens include heat, dust, pets, detergents and other chemicals. But stress doesn’t help either and something as minor as having a cold could cause a skin flare-up.
When eczema hits, it’s best to treat it early as it’s more difficult to deal with when it becomes severe. It usually affects the hands and creases of the body, such as the inside of elbows and the backs of knees. There’s no cure but emollients—moisturising treatments—help to keep your skin from drying out by creating a protective layer. This is best for mild eczema.
For a more serious flare-up, you should consult your GP, who can prescribe you a corticosteroid to reduce inflammation. Antihistamines can help too, relieving itching and aiding sleep.
There’s also plenty you can do to help yourself. First, keep your skin well moisturised—always using an unperfumed cream and smoothing the cream on in the direction of hair growth. Avoid irritants like perfumed shower gels and bubble baths. Be sure to use non-rubber gloves when you do the housework and wear natural fibres, such as cotton day-to-day. When you wash your clothes, ensure you’re using a non-biological detergent and put them through two rinses.
Steer clear of obvious allergens, if you can. You usually know, for example, if pets set you off. Stay cool, as getting too hot can make your eczema itch more.
And, whatever you do, do your best to resist that temptation to scratch. It’s likely to only aggravate the itching further.
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter