Signs and Symptoms
1. Itchy, dry, scaly, red, blistered or swollen patches of skin, usually on the wrists, hands, face, scalp, and creases of the knees and elbows.
2. Oozing, crusting, thickening, or sometimes discoloration of the affected skin area.
What to do now
1. Soothe itchiness and keep skin moist by taking warm baths. Use mild cleanser or fragrance-free soap sparingly, and don’t scrub or towel your skin vigorously. Apply a fragrance-free moisturizer after bathing.
2. Apply over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream (don’t apply it on a baby less than 10 years old). Avoid using lotions that contain preservatives, oils, or perfumes.
3. Try an over-the-counter antihistamine to relieve itching.
4. Try not eat foods that seem to make your eczema flare up; some people report problems from cow’s milk eggs, wheat, flour, nuts, and citrus juices.
5. Wear soft, cotton gloves or mittens to bed to limit scratching while asleep. This can be especially helpful for children.
6. Wear loose, comfortable, cool clothing; sweating can make eczema worse. Avoid synthetic and wool fabrics, which may irritate the skin.
7. Relax and relieve stress by taking brisk walks or getting other exercise regularly.
When to call a doctor
1. If your condition doesn’t get better after a week or two of home care, or if it keeps coming back. Your doctor may suggest more aggressive treatment.
2. If you develop an unexplained itchy rash, and eczema or asthma runs in your family.
3. If you get a yellowish or light brown crust or pus-filled blisters on top of eczema patches. You may have a bacterial infection that needs treatment with antibiotics, or a rare but potentially serious complication caused by a herpes virus.
How to prevent it
1. To keep skin from getting dry, take short, warm showers or baths, and apply moisturizer immediately afterward.
2. To keep your hands from getting dry and chapped, wear mittens or gloves in cold weather. Wearing cotton gloves under wool or synthetic-fiber gloves will help prevent irritation. Use cotton-lined rubber gloves when you are hand-washing clothes and dishes.
3. Avoid as many skin irritants and allergy causing agents as you can. These include soaps, detergents, fragrances, dust, pet hair, tobacco smoke, and foods that seem to make your eczema worse.
4. Learn to spot potentially stressful situations, and practice relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation.