Wouldn't you agree that eczema flare-ups can be frustrating especially when you do not know how to get rid of eczema?
Some may even feel helpless as nothing they do seem to help.
This ultimate guide aims to provide you with information on eczema in general, as well as some of the following key areas:
- Types of Eczema
- What Triggers Eczema
- Conventional Treatment Methods
- Alternative Treatment Methods
Types of Eczema
According to the National Eczema Association, there are several variations of eczema types that you should know about:
It is the most common type of eczema, and starts as early as from childhood in the first six months. While the exact cause may be unknown, atopic dermatitis is typically linked to asthma and hay fever, and it typically runs in the family.
In AD, the body's immune system overreacts to triggers and causes the common symptoms like redness, itching and rashes to appear on the skin.
Contact dermatitis happens when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or allergen, resulting in an inflammation characterized by redness, itching, swelling and burning sensation at times.
Some of the common irritants include household items like soaps, detergents and bleach, skin care products and certain foods. Allergens include pollen, dust mites and pet dander.
This chronic type of eczema is characterized by small blisters which is preceded by severe itching on the hands and feet. As the itching and blisters subside and heal, the skin becomes dry, scaly and cracked at times.
Another common type of dermatitis which is the result of a combination of internal and external factors such as family history and coming into contact with allergens and irritants.
Also known as lichen simplex chronicus, it is very similar to atopic dermatitis. People often scratch the affected areas and this causes the skin to become thickened, dry and scaly.
Some people may even scratch out of habit and even during their sleep. The commonly affected areas include the neck, shoulders, elbows, ankles, wrists and back of hands. Infections may also develop in these areas when the skin barrier is compromised.
This type of eczema is another common type of eczema that can happen at any age. It is characterized by round spots which may be very itchy and looks very different from other types of eczema. It is also known as discoid eczema and nummular dermatitis.
Also known as venous stasis dermatitis, this type of eczema occurs near the veins on the lower part of the legs where blood circulation is poor. Besides the common symptoms like redness and itching, swelling may be observed around the ankles.
Commonly referred to as dandruff, this type of eczema often happens on the scalp but it can also be found on the eyebrows, area behind the ears, sides of the nose and the groin area.
Seborrheic dermatitis causes flaking of the skin which is due to overgrowth and rapid shedding of skin cells.
Avoid These Potential Eczema Triggers In Your Life
We shall examine and explain the potential triggers you may encounter in your daily life and how to identify and avoid them in order to prevent flare-ups.
While some causes are based on uncontrollable factors such as stress and the weather temperature, other factors much like pet dander or household chemicals are easily enough manipulated to ease your symptom flares.
However, simple lifestyle changes can go a long way in helping how you live and deal with your eczema. To get rid of eczema, the first thing you need to know is what causes eczema - that is what your eczema triggers are.
What Causes Eczema?
Causes of eczema can be a number of different factors and it all boils down to one main question, that is the type of environment you are in.
Many everyday things in your environment can cause eczema to flare. An important step to treating your eczema is being able to identify and avoid your personal trigger(s).
You may notice that certain things are more apt to irritate your skin upon immediate contact than others; this immediate stinging or itchy might be the first sign of an impending flare of eczema – they are not allergies.
It is common that you will touch one of you triggers before even realizing it is a cause of your eczema; but once you figure out what causes your symptoms to arise, then it is easy enough to make lifestyle changes to avoid them.
And before we go into the triggers, some of you may be wondering if eczema is contagious? The answer is no, so you shouldn't be worried about that as one of the factors.
When it is cold outside eczema symptoms may increase. For many people, extremely cold weather can dry out the skin and cause eczema breakouts.
Eczema treatments for cold weather include moisturizing, in order to keep the skin from cracking, drying out, and itching. It would be good if you can use a humidifier to add moisture to the otherwise dry indoor air, setting it to about forty-five to fifty-five percent humidity levels are ideal.
Much like the cold, heat and humidity may also trigger eczema flares. If heat is one of your triggers, in order to combat this, try to stay indoors in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible. When you do go outside, try to find a spot with plenty of shade and avoid becoming overheated and sweating, which may cause you to itch as well.
Pollen is always in the air during the spring, and unfortunately, for people with eczema it is a common trigger.
Stay indoors with the windows closed if possible, especially when the pollen count is high. If you must go outside, remember to take a shower once you come back inside to remove pollen from your skin and hair, as well as wash your clothes.
It may also be beneficial to ask your doctor about adding an antihistamine to your treatment plan for eczema if pollen is one of your triggers.
Dust Mites and Pet Dander
Dust mites may be one cause of eczema, especially in children. In order to keep those itchy patches away, try to minimize your exposure to triggers indoors.
One way to do this is to remove blinds, rugs, and carpeting – all of these trap dust mites and allow it to be kicked up when used. In addition, giving your curtains and linens a weekly wash in hot water should be part of your treatment plan.
Make sure to keep pets off the furniture and ban them from bedrooms if you identify them as one of your eczema causes. The frequent vacuuming of rugs and carpet, in addition to the regular bathing and grooming of pets can help you control the population of pet dander.
Clothing and Fabrics
Another indoor allergen may be the fabric that makes your clothes. Rougher materials such as wool and synthetics (even the synthetic blends) may trigger your flare-up.
Instead, try to choose looser-fitting clothing made of cotton. You may also like to consider the special eczema clothing which are made of 100% cotton which do not irritate your skin.
Of course, you should always wash your new clothes to remove any sort of dye residue or other forms of irritants, prior to washing them.
Clothes tags can also lead to skin irritations, so you might as well cut them out as well.
Soaps, Detergents and Household Cleaning Products
While we are on the subject of clothing, be fussy about the detergent you use. Harsh chemical ingredients in laundry detergents may lead to the outbreak of eczema symptoms.
Obtain a fragrance-free detergent with a neutral pH balance of seven. Use the double rinse cycle in order to make sure all the soap has been removed.
Other household cleaning products may also be harsh triggers for your eczema.
You can consider looking for natural alternatives to the otherwise chemically charged cleaners you may be using. If you must use a cleaner that contains an eczema-causing agent, wear rubber gloves.
Alternatively, other possible ways to avoid such reactions to detergents is to dilute the washing liquid; use the smallest amount possible in each cycle to make sure the clothes are washed out thoroughly before wearing once again.
If you use soap to wash your hands, make sure you rinse them off well, and with warm water (especially if hot water is one of your trigger points) to avoid experiencing eczema on hands.
Finally, limit the lotions and creams that you apply to your skin unless they are specifically prescribed for eczema.
While a long, hot bath may be nice to have after a stressful day, hot water can irritate skin and cause a flare-up. Keep showers and baths short and only use warm water.
Furthermore, do not scrub or rub vigorously at your skin, as it will further damage it. Instead, pat your skin dry with a towel and while you are still damp apply a moisturizer to lock in the moisture on your skin.
Food allergens may be a cause of eczema symptoms in people with atopic dermatitis. While there are several ways to diagnose a food allergy, the only way to be sure the allergen is an eczema trigger is through a food challenge.
During a food challenge, a doctor will have you eat a mistrustful food and then watch for signs of eczema like wheals or redness.
Unfortunately, the only way to avoid this trigger is not to eat it. This process is called an elimination diet.
There is no proven scientific evidence that specific foods cause eczema flares but people do notice their symptoms become worse after eating a particular food.
Making sure the food is the clear cause of your flare is harder than it may appear to be. But because you are in an environment with constantly changing factors, it will be difficult to tell if the food is the trigger or possibly another factor such as stress or the weather.
However, scientists are studying the effects of other dietary components such as black, green, and oolong tea for eczema symptom relief. Also, omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fish and fish oil work as an anti-inflammatory agent and may relive eczema symptoms, research finds.
Stress can cause some people to break out with an eczema flare-up. While we understand it is impossible to remove every aspect of stress from your life, using a few proven methods of stress reduction could greatly help your treatment.
Exercises such as yoga, deep breathing, and support group participation may help alleviate your stress and help keep your flares under control, especially during high times of stress.
Cosmetic products may aggravate your eczema. Products often contain ingredients such as perfumes, preservatives, alcohol, and lanolin; these are commonly known to cause eczema breakouts.
When you read the labels be sure to look for the words “fragrance-free” rather than “unscented”, just because it is “unscented” does not mean it does not contain fragrance, it may be masked.
Another helpful solution to figuring out if your cosmetics are a trigger is to test out the product on a small patch of skin to see if there is an eczema break out. This can lessen the frustration of having a flare-up if you realize the triggering mechanism before you apply it all over.
Look for ingredients such as: Shea butter and glycerin they provide moisture for your skin as well as repair it for overall healthier looking skin. Hopefully, these compounds will be listed first, second, or third in the ingredient column.
Cosmetics with Hyaluronic acid will help draw moisture from the air to your skin. Also, hyaluronic acid helps relieve flaky, dry skin.
Finally, Niacinamide is a compound that is commonly called vitamin B3. Niacinamide reduces redness by strengthening your skin's barrier.
If you do smoke, consider quitting. Despite the known fact that smoking is linked to other health problems, tobacco smoke can cause eczema symptoms to worsen.
Get Rid of Eczema: Conventional Eczema Treatment Methods
While there may be no cure for eczema any time soon, it is not impossible to get rid of eczema flare-ups and keep its symptoms to a minimum. Let's explore some of the conventional treatment for eczema that are commonly used today.
We strongly believe that moisturizing is one of the most important important factor that is effective in managing eczema.
Moisturizing helps to keep the skin soft and supple, and prevents our sensitive skin from drying up. In turn, this would help to minimize any itchiness or irritation that results from the dry skin, and prevents us from scratching it. At the same time, it serves a protection barrier for inflamed skin and plays a role in helping the skin to recover.
While there are many types of moisturizers and products for eczema out there, you should find one that suits your needs. Moisturizers are typically categorized according to the amount of oil and water content. There are three types of moisturizers:
Ointments have the highest oil content among the three types. Its semi-soild texture is ideal as part of severe eczema treatment as it forms a nice consistent layer that keeps the skin hydrated and prevents further water loss. As it can be greasy, some people prefer to use it only at night.
Creams have the second highest oil content and is good at retaining the moisture in the skin. It may be absorbed slowly, but it is not as greasy compared to ointments. Creams make an ideal choice for long-lasting protection without too much of a mess.
The thinnest formulation among the three types of moisturizers rapidly absorbs into the skin. It contains the most water content and leaves a soothing feeling after application. Due to its thin oil content, it is light in texture and requires frequent application to maintain its effect.
Wet wraps can be a nice relief for eczema itch, especially for children with eczema. However, it requires your commitment of time and effort and needs to be done often to see significant results.
To summarize the process of wet wrapping, it involves the following few steps:
- Take a lukewarm bath to soak the skin
- Dry the skin light and apply generously a thick layer of moisturizers on the skin
- Dress the skin with wet bandages or clothing
- Top off the dressing with a layer of dry clothing
- Leave the wraps on for at least two hours
We will not go into detail, but if you are considering this as a form of management, you may refer to the brilliant guide on the Itchy Little World blog.
One of the most commonly sought option, topical corticosteroids can help to reduce the redness, itching and inflammation caused by the eczema. The corticosteroids are still one of the most effective treatments for eczema available if used correctly.
There are various levels of strength of corticosteroids available for each case of eczema. Your doctor will speak to you to understand your needs and prescribe the most appropriate type for you.
For moderate to severe cases of eczema, your doctor may prescribe some medication for eczema to limit the amount of response from the body. Taking antihistamines at night before you sleep can help to relieve the itch for a good night's sleep.
There are various forms of phototherapy (or light therapy), with the most common being using narrowband UVB light. In cases whereby a patient does not react favourably to light therapy or other special circumstances, PUVA therapy is used.
In PUVA therapy, the patient is given a prescription drug psoralen, which makes the skin more sensitive to UVA light.
Patients with moderate to severe eczema can benefit from phototherapy as it not only helps to reduce the itchiness and and also calm inflammation. It can help to improve the body's ability to produce vitamin D as well. With a proper treatment plan, phototherapy can greatly improve one's eczema and minimize the number of eczema attacks.
Most of us would have taken at least a bath or shower once a day for hygiene reasons. You may not know that taking the regular bath can be really useful as part of our skincare for eczema, helping to manage our eczema skin.
One of the best ways to hydrate your skin is taking a bath or shower and moisturizing immediately after. This would help to keep the moisture locked into the skin. Having said that, it is not advisable to bathe more than what you need as it may have the opposite effect of drying the skin.
Besides the regular baths, there are several types of baths whereby different ingredients are added to aid in chronic eczema relief. Let us take a look at some of them.
This household ingredient has great cleaning properties on and off the skin. Some parents have been using it to relieve their children's rashes in general, but do note that the water may be too alkaline and cause an imbalance of the skin's pH.
A mild solution of bleach and water has strong antibacterial properties, and can help to bring quick relief for eczema skin. However, the bleach solution is a known irritant of eczema.
When done too often, bleach baths can also disrupt the pH balance of the skin and cause the skin to dry further with major irritation. You should limit the number of bleach baths to three times per week or as per your doctor's instructions.
Bath Oils Bath
Adding these bath oils to the bath can help to moisturize the skin and keep it hydrated for a while. Take caution when you are using them in your bath as it may make the bathtub slippery and result in fall injuries.
Salt in general does a great job in killing off bacteria from the skin and help to reduce the inflammation. The benefits of salt baths go beyond just the skin and are great for relieving stress and tension.
Epsom salts are commonly used, while some may use Dead Sea salts which carry additional minerals. Do take note that salt baths may sting the skin or be uncomfortable for dried and cracked eczema skin.
Oatmeal can be added to a bath for their great cleansing properties. Not only is it recognized for its antiinflammatory properties, oatmeal baths can greatly help to relieve itching as it is also non-drying and does not disrupt the pH balance of the skin.
One of the most commonly used is apple cider vinegar, which has wonderful antibacterial and antifungal properties. Being acidic, it works in the same environment as the skin's pH levels. Before you commence on any vinegar baths, be sure to speak to your doctor as it may not be suitable for everyone.
Get Rid of Eczema: Alternative Eczema Treatment Methods
In the relentless search for a cure for eczema, many forms of alternative treatment methods (both orthodox and unorthodox) have surfaced. In this section, we will be presenting some of these methods and the logic behind it.
Please take note that while it may appear on our list, we do not endorse or certify the suitability, safety and efficacy of any of these treatment methods. If you are unsure, please consult a qualified medical professional before embarking on any treatment for eczema.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used for thousands of years to treat many types of illnesses, including skin disorders like eczema. In TCM, it is believed that the body suffers from illnesses as a direct result of disrupting the body's natural balance, with improper diet, toxin buildup and other lifestyle factors.
Through the use of Chinese herbs for eczema, the TCM practitioner will seek to relieve the symptoms of eczema. The medicine will also help to regulate the body's functions and bring back the body's natural balance by reducing what is excessive in the body, and helping the system to build up what is deficient.
TCM believes in a holistic approach to treatment, therefore your TCM practitioner will advice you on the necessary lifestyle and dietary changes to speed up the process of recovery. Treatment will typically take course over 3-6 months before significant results are observed.
Acupuncture is usually used in conjuction with Chinese herbal medicine as part of a treatment process. Using these thin, surgical grade stainless steel needles, the TCM practitioner will stimulate certain acupuncture points on the body.
Needles may remain in the skin anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes, depending on the desired effect determined by the TCM practitioner. There may be times when mild heat or mild electrical charge is applied via the needles to increase the effectiveness.
As with Chinese herbal medicine, please make sure to consult a qualified and reputable TCM practitioner to administer the treatments.
Hypnotherapy for eczema can be beneficial in reducing the psychological and emotional factors such as anxiety, depression and stress. From what we have learnt earlier, these factors can both result from eczema and also trigger eczema.
Hypnosis can be also be taught to break the habits of someone scratchs out of habit, for example those who suffer from neurodermatitis. By reducing the amount of scratching of the skin, it can help in restoring the skin to a healthier condition.
Food and Dieting
As we build up a range of toxins in our bodies, it is important that we find a way to remove them from our system. Our body's detoxification system may be very efficient in clearing these toxins, but as we face more of such toxins around us, it struggles to keep up and the toxic effects shows up on our skin. These take the form of inflammation of the skin and eczema.
Detoxing is a good way to remove these toxins from the body, as well as helping to stimulate and promote stronger and healthier body functions. There are several types of detoxing diets with varying levels of difficulty and the type of food intake allowed.
One popular detoxing diet is the lemon fast, which is more commonly known as the Master Cleanse and is popular among those seeking to lose weight. The diet involves drinking nothing but lemon juice with water, cayenne pepper and maple syrup over 10 days. The benefits of this cleanse may be more than just losing weight, but also help to restore some of the body's functions to its optimum.
Another extreme detoxing diet is the water fast, and as the name suggests, it is just water from 3 days or more. By limiting the food intake, it is said to help the digestive system by giving it a break and give it a chance to heal itself and other body ailments including eczema.
You are definitely what you eat, so it makes sense to watch what goes into your stomach. Eczema sufferers in particualr are more susceptible to food allergies.
Some of the food that you should avoid are dairy products, eggs, seeds, nuts, wheat and soy products. There may be some people who are also allergic to corn, yeasts, eggplants, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and wheat.
On the other hand, there are a few classes of food which you should be including more in your meals. Foods high in Vitamin C (fruits like berries and citrus fruits, and vegetables like kale, broccoli, cauliflowers and brussel sprouts) are great for their antioxidant properties.
You should also consider foods high in quercetin (e.g. apples, dark leafy greens, buckwheat) for the fact that quercetin is a natural antihistamine which may help to stabilize the immune response of our bodies.
Lastly, add in some fats in the form of unsaturated fats (or fatty acids) for good measure. These can be found in plant-based oils like canola, olive and sesame oil, or fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines.
While it can be really confusing as to where to start, let us break it down into the four main objectives to what would make an effective and holistic treatment for eczema:
Control the itching.
Yes, we know that when you itch you are inclined to scratch, but scratching at your itchy patches is only going to make it worse. In fact, it could tear open the skin, further damaging it and letting in bacteria that can lead to an infection.
Heal the damaged skin.
Moisturizing your skin is one of the best ways to keep your eczema under control and heal the damaged skin. The thicker the moisturizer, much like ointments and creams, will usually provide more protection for your skin.
Prevent future flares.
We have already discussed how to prevent future flare-ups. Many of the aforementioned methods are more based on common sense than anything.
However, if you are not sure if what you have is an allergy or an eczema trigger, it would be best advised to go see your doctor so they can determine what your symptoms actually mean and give you the proper means to treat them.
Infections may not seem like a common cause of eczema break outs, but those living with eczema might be more prone to skin infections because the dry, split skin from scratching and weakened barrier function.
That is not to say you should wash your hands more, because the bacteria that cause infections are also found on healthy skin; however, the oils on healthy skin protect the body from the entering bacteria.
Bacteria varieties such as staphylococcal and streptococcal thrive and invade skin that is dry and atopic. In order to combat the infection antibiotics are used to eliminate the infection as well as control the eczema to prevent any further infections from forming.
Treatments, of course, always depend on your age, medical history, the severity of your symptoms, and more importantly, what has caused your flare-up. You are more than likely going to need to use a mix of remedies to help get the best results possible.
Frequently Asked Questions about Eczema
Is eczema contagious?
No, you cannot get eczema from someone through any form of contact. What we do know is that eczema is hereditary and are most commonly found in families with a history of asthma or other allergies.
Is eczema curable?
Eczema is a chronic condition and you cannot cure eczema for that matter. However, most cases of eczema can be managed by avoiding the known triggers and a proper skin care regime with plenty of moisturizing can be very effective. Lifestyle changes should also be considered.
Why did my eczema worsen during certain times?
You could have been exposed to a certain eczema trigger which caused the flare-up. These could be environmental factors such as extreme temperatures, pollen, dust or coming into contact with certain irritants or allergens such as soaps or other harsh chemicals.
How do I get rid of eczema?
Eczema treatment may involve a range of options to help you better manage it. The options may range from a daily bathing and moisturizing routine, avoiding known eczema triggers; for moderate to severe cases, your doctor may prescribe medication and related eczema products for your symptoms and to calm the immune response from the body.
Which part of the body does eczema usually appear?
The common areas where eczema usually appears include the inside of the elbows and kness, hands, neck, face and scalp. It may appear in other parts of the body too in cases of contact dermatitis.
Can I go swimming in the pool?
Of course you can! But do make sure to rinse off immediately as the chlorine content in the pool and the salt in the seawater can irritate your skin. Dry gently and remember to moisturize immediately.
Can I go outdoors to enjoy the sun?
While some Vitamin D will be good for your skin in general, do not forget to apply your sunscreen and other forms of sun protection such as sunglasses and hats,