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WHAT IS ECZEMA?

Eczema or atopic dermatitis affects 1 in 3 Australians and can have a debilitating effect on a sufferer and their quality of life.

When you have very dry or eczema prone skin, the protective outer layer is more susceptible to damages to the skin barrier, meaning it loses moisture easily and can be more receptive to allergens, irritants, bacteria and environmental factors which can lead to red, dry, tight and itchy skin.

SYMPTOMS OF ECZEMA

  • Excessive skin dryness
  • Intense itching
  • Scaling – dry, rough and scaly skin
  • Redness/rash-caused by scratching and flare-ups
  • Sensitive skin – high sensitivity to irritants and allergens
  • Itchy skin

COMMON CAUSES

Identifying and avoiding your trigger or triggers are an important part of your eczema management plan.

IRRITANTS

Some things can make eczema worse. They are called irritants. Over time, you’ll learn which things cause problems for your skin.

Soaps detergents & dryer sheets

Bubble-bath & certain shampoos

Fragrances & dyes

Wool or other coarse fabrics

Tips:

  • Wash new clothes before putting them
  • Use dye-free and fragrance-free detergents and avoid using dryer sheets
  • Use sunscreens made for sensitive skin

ALLERGENS

For some people, their skin gets itchy and inflamed when they’re in contact with certain things, causing an allergic reaction.

House and dust mites

Pets

Pollen (seasonal)

Molds

Tips:

  • Vacuum and wet-dust the bedroom floor and furniture frequently
  • Keep soft toys to a minimum

ENVIRONMENT

Extremes of temperature and humidity may trigger a flare-up of eczema symptoms.

Hot or cold temperature

High or low humidity

Cigarette smoke

Pollution

Tips:

  • Avoid getting too hot or too cold.
  • Maintain an even temperature and humidity in your home

FOOD

Some children with atopic eczema have a food allergy which can make symptoms worse. In general, it is young children with severe eczema who may have a food allergy.

Dairy products

Eggs

Nuts and seeds

Wheat

Tips:

  • If you suspect a food is making eczema symptoms worse, see your doctor. You may be asked to keep a diary to help identify one or more suspect foods.

STRESS

Stress doesn’t cause eczema, but stress, anger and frustration can make symptoms worse. Stress can also cause habit scratching. It is thought that scratching can make itch worse, which makes you want to scratch more, etc. This is called the itch-scratch cycle and can make eczema worse.

Tips:

  • Keep your fingernails short.
  • Consider cotton gloves or mittens at night if your child tends to scratch in his/her sleep

DAILY CARE

Careful management of eczema prone skin can help reduce dry, itchy skin and prevent flare-ups. Proper bathing and moisturising are essential for the daily care of eczema prone skin. Moisturisers can help trap water in the skin, helping to keep the skin barrier intact and less likely to crack. It is important to continue a regular moisturising routine even when your child does not have a flare.

An effective skin care regimen can help restore and strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier, helping to prevent the recurrence of dry, itchy skin.

BATHING TIPS

  • Use lukewarm water to wash your child.
  • Use a mild, non-drying, fragrance-free cleanser. 
  • Gently pat skin dry — don't rub.
  • Avoid body sponges and washcloths.

MOISTURISING TIPS

  • Apply moisturisers to wet skin
  • Apply prescribed medications first and then liberally apply moisturiser.
  • Consider using a moisturiser that is suitable for eczema prone skin to help reduce the itch and keep skin hydrated.
  • Reapply throughout the day

MORE TIPS

  • Keep your fingernails short
  • Wear open-weave, loose-fitting, cotton-blend clothing
  • Maintain an even temperature and humidity in your home
  • Wash new clothes before putting them on
  • Use dye-free and fragrance-free detergents and avoid using dryer sheets
  • Use sunscreens made for sensitive skin
  • As always, talk to your child’s doctor if you have any questions or concerns

TREATMENT

A health care professional will advise you on the best way to treat an eczema flare up, which will usually include an over the counter cream. Make sure you treat a flare-up as soon as possible to minimise the symptoms. However careful management of eczema prone skin can help to soothe dry, itchy skin2