6 Tips for Avoiding an Eczema Flare-Up
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a
chronic skin condition that can cause painful and unsightly symptoms, like dry,
itchy skin, and red, sore rashes. With the right treatment, eczema can typically
be well-managed; however, certain factors can trigger an eczema flare-up, also
called an exacerbation, in which symptoms worsen for a period of time.
Fortunately, there are many ways to avoid these flare-ups and keep your skin
1. Find the right treatment and stick to it.
There are many different types of treatments available to manage eczema, so finding the right one and committing to it is key for controlling your condition. Your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid cream or ointment to apply to problem areas; this will soothe itching and calm inflammation. To avoid an eczema flare-up, apply the treatment at the first sign of worsening symptoms, and use it right after bathing for best results. For severe eczema, you might try a biologic medicine, which reduces inflammation and thus, eczema symptoms.
2. Don’t scratch!
When skin is irritated by eczema, it can be tempting to itch and rub the area—however, this will just make the problem worse. Scratching too much can break the skin and cause bacterial infections and worsening symptoms, so ask your doctor for techniques to keep yourself from itching. You might try using an antihistamine to cut down on itching or placing cool compresses on the irritated area.
3. Identify and avoid your triggers.
Eczema flare-ups are typically caused by contact with an irritant. That’s why it’s important to know what to avoid. Common eczema triggers include household cleaners, detergents, soaps, scented lotions, stress, and pet dander. And certain fabrics, like wool or synthetic fibers, can irritate skin and lead to eczema flare-ups. Stick to 100% cotton, silk, linen, or soft acrylic. Do your best to avoid your specific triggers so you can avoid a flare-up.
4. Protect your hands.
If you tend to develop eczema on your hands, take extra care of them. Keep them as dry as possible, as wetness can make eczema symptoms worse. Wash hands only when necessary, use a mild, fragrance-free soap, make sure to dry your hands completely afterwards, and don’t forget to moisturize once they’re dry. It’s also helpful to wear plastic or vinyl gloves when your hands will be in water for an extended period of time. Consider wearing cotton gloves underneath to soak up any sweat, and take breaks frequently to prevent sweat from building up inside the gloves.
5. Be smart in the shower and bath.
Hot water can irritate your skin, so keep the shower temperature warm or cool, and bathe with only a small amount of mild, unscented soap. Apply the soap gently—scrubbing can aggravate the skin. Taking a 15 to 20 minute warm bath can help your skin stay moisturized, but a longer soak can irritate it. Once you’re done, gently pat yourself dry (don’t rub!) with a soft towel and immediately apply moisturizer to seal in hydration.
6. Stay moisturized.
Dry skin is one of the most common triggers of eczema flare-ups, so committing to a daily moisturizing routine is key. Stick to moisturizing products that are fragrance-free and dye-free, without a lot of ingredients—many dermatologists recommend using plain petroleum jelly. Choose products that are more greasy than creamy, as creams tend to contain more preservatives. To lock in moisture, apply a thick layer of moisturizer within a few minutes of bathing—and for best results, perform this routine every night so your skin can soak in moisture while you sleep.
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- What causes eczema to get better or worse? https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/causes-and-triggers-of-eczema/
- Eczema. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/eczema.html
- Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis. FamilyDoctor.org. https://familydoctor.org/condition/eczema-and-atopic-dermatitis/?adfree=true
- Itching & Scratching. National Eczema Society. http://www.eczema.org/itching-scratching
- Controlling eczema by moisturizing. National Eczema Association. https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/moisturizing/