Eczema – Skin Allergies

Rough Stuff: Dealing with Skin Allergies


Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is a skin condition caused by allergies unknown to the sufferer, and still a mystery to modern medicine. Eczema causes intense itchiness, and if scratched too much, can cause pain in that area for hours. Scratching also causes damage to the skin tissue by stripping it of its outer layers that protect it, thus leading to an infection. The more you scratch, the more you invite flare-ups and infections, such as smallpox.

Nearly 50 percent of eczema sufferers also have allergic rhinitis and suffer from asthma as well. The connection is not clear to doctors at this time. Eczema often occurs during infancy and the early childhood years, decreasing as one grows, and usually disappears by age six. For about one third of the population, however, eczema accompanies them into adulthood, and persistently resurfaces throughout a lifetime.

Where Does Eczema Appear?

Eczema comes in the form of red, itchy patches that appear on the face, torso, elbows, knees, wrists, ankles, feet, and on the outside of the arms and legs. The affected skin area becomes drier, thicker, and darker, and creases in the skin become deeper and more noticeable to the human eye. The patches have the tendency of scaling, crusting and oozing, leaving the patient susceptible to bacteria and viral skin infections.

Eczema sufferers find relief for the itching by applying topical dressings such as hydrocortisone creams, taking oral antihistamines, and in more severe cases, oral steroids may be prescribed. The key to preventing itching is to keep your skin moist by applying non-alcoholic creams as often as possible. Doctors also suggest keeping your hands out of water, and avoiding any known substances that trigger and irritate your skin. Since there is no cure for eczema, the object is to keep the skin from itching by continuously applying such medications until the rash is gone, thus, counteracting the symptoms associated with this non-curable skin condition.

Eczema Triggers

There are many environmental substances that pose serious consequences for eczema sufferers. Here is a list of the most common eczema irritants and triggers to avoid:

  • Touching everyday products such as soaps, perfumes and lotions
  • Wearing clothing made of polyester or clothes that are not 100 percent cotton
  • Exposure to allergens, including dust mites and specific foods
  • Sweating
  • Stress
  • Cat or dog dander
  • Clothes washed with irritating detergents
  • Hard water
  • House dust
  • Moisture left on skin from drinking fluids (especially for infants and toddlers)
  • Second-hand cigarette smoke, or smoking

There are several ways for you to control your eczema and keep it from flaring-up, or controlling all together. Knowing what causes your skin’s irritations will help avoid triggering the itch.

  • Use soaps and detergents made without enzymes
  • Wear breathable cotton
  • Avoid taking hot showers and baths. Use warm water instead. Remember to pat dry rather than rub your skin with a towel.
  • Avoid long showers and baths. Long baths cause the skin to prune, which reduces moisture in sensitive skin.
  • Always keep your dry areas moist by applying lotion several times a day. Applying lotion to skin that has just been bathed benefits the eczema the best because the lotion is absorbed into the skin.
  • Taking antihistamines is a proven method of controlling itchy skin.
  • Follow your doctors when a topical ointment or oral medicine is prescribed.

Those suffering from eczema should check their skin regularly for red bumps or pus. If either appear, this may be the first signs of an infection. Contact your doctor immediately.

By Allergy Buyers Club Medical Staff Writers
© 2001