Only those with eczema truly understand how hard it can be to deal with.
Between flare-ups, the skin tends to be dry and itchy, often resulting in an urge to scratch that’s impossible to resist. Constant scratching will split the skin, causing it to weep, bleed and open up to infections.
Here’s our expert advice on how to cope with symptoms and stresses related to eczema.
Know your triggers
Eczema flare-ups are often ‘triggered’ by environmental factors. In some cases it could be obvious what’s causing it, but sometimes it could take a little longer to work out.
Triggers can include, but aren’t limited to:
- Soaps and detergents
- Foods like egg, wheat, nuts and milk
- Animals (fur, hair, saliva)
- Central heating
- House dust mites
- Materials like synthetic fabrics or wool
- Chemical agents
- Fragranced products
Try and keep a record of anything that you think may be causing your flare ups and talk to your pharmacist or GP about how to minimise the effects.
Get a good night’s sleep
People living with eczema often find the urge to itch is heightened at night and getting to sleep can be difficult. This is largely due to the fact that in the day we are busy and distracted so itching can often be forgotten about. Being hot at night can also irritate skin and increase the impulse to itch.
Try keeping the bedroom window open at night and keep the central heating down to a minimum. A light duvet will also be better than a thick one that might cause you to be hot and sweaty and lead to irritation.
Cotton bedding tends to irritate skin less than other mixed fabrics so if you can try to use cotton sheets and quit covers.
Also, having a bath before bed relaxes muscles and may help you drift off to sleep easier but keep the water lukewarm!
Watch what you wear
When choosing what to wear there are a few things you should consider like ; what fabric is it made of? Is it tight or loose fitting?
Some clothing can irritate your skin, possibly resulting in a flare up. Fabrics to stay away from include wools and synthetic fabrics such as polyester. Cotton clothing is usually best to limit irritation.
Tight clothing can cause sweating or irritation to the skin which can cause your skin to become delicate and flare-up. Wear comfortable clothing to avoid any irritation.
Washing new clothes before you wear them can also help protect your skin from any possible irritation. Use unscented, sensitive or mild liquid detergents and avoid fabric softeners as they are usually highly perfumed.
Keep a food diary
A food allergy or intolerance can cause eczema symptoms in some people – dairy and wheat produce are some of the more common food allergens. Try keeping a food diary so you can work out if your diet is affecting your eczema. If you have noticed flare ups with certain foods, it’s best to see a dermatologist for advice before cutting things out of your diet.
Free from foods are much more widely available these days and it can be fun experimenting with new recipes.
Stress can cause eczema to become inflamed so managing this can help you control your eczema. Making sure you get enough sleep and talking with others that live with eczema can be really helpful. Breathing exercises, yoga and meditation techniques are also great for relaxation. Exercise can also help minimise stress levels.
Work out without the flare-ups
Exercise leads to increased sweating which can irritate eczema but it’s important not to let eczema take over, so if you want to exercise don’t let having eczema stop you.
Here are some simple tips to minimize the impact exercise will have:
- Drink lots of water before, during and after exercise. Those with eczema will have inherently dry skin so it’s important to hydrate yourself when exercising to replace the water that is lost – and that means inside and out
- Moisturise before and after exercise. You don’t want to use something heavy as that would be counterproductive and trap sweat in. Instead, opt for something light and apply about an hour before working out. You can apply your richer emollient after a cool shower once you have finished your work out.
- Keep cool by taking regular breaks. Listen to your body and try not to overheat. TOP TIP: Cold compression wraps are great for cooling skin down.
- Opt for a loose fitting cotton t-shirt and loose shorts. Tight fitting clothing may be great for absorbing sweat but it’s not great for eczema. Loose fitting cotton will generally be more comfortable and less irritable.
Manage weather changes
Eczema reacts badly to rapid changes in temperature as well as extreme hot or cold temperatures. High humidity can lead to symptoms similar to prickly-heat, whilst low humidity may dry the skin out.
Things like central heating in the winter can also be a trigger. The best thing you can do is make sure your home is as comfortable as possible by controlling the heating. Keep it low and wear light cotton sleepwear.
When outside in cold weather, choose leather or cotton gloves to protect your hands from the cold air, remember wool gloves may cause irritation.
It’s also essential that you use a good moisturiser regularly to hydrate the skin.
Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise
Keeping your skin moisturised often is key to managing your eczema.
TOP TIP: Moisturise after showering or bathing. Use a plain, unscented moisturiser to keep your skin soft and moisturised.
If this doesn’t work for your skin, try thicker products such as emollients. The difference between normal lotions, creams and emollients is the amount of oil they contain.
Emollients prevent water loss and provide a protective layer on your skin, but often can be greasy as they contain a lot of oil. They come in different forms and can be used directly on your skin, in the bath or as soap. You may have to try a few different emollients to find one that’s right for you.
Upgrade your skincare regime
For the face
The new Eau Thermale Avène Skin Recovery Cream (£12.50, 40ml) contains 70% Avène Thermal Spring Water alongside added PARCERINE® to help restore, repair and reduce inflammation in sensitive skin. The formula is lighter in texture and has been produced with DEFI technology which refers to the patented packaging method. The sophisticated technology works to keep the formulation protected from contamination by air or bacteria meaning there’s no need for added preservatives. The product is 100% preservative free and ideal for those with eczema.
Sequaderma Red Dry Itchy Skin (£19.99, 30ml) is ideal for hand eczema. The Patented Sequessome Technology delivers skin-nourishing complexes directly into the skin’s numerous layers. Once dried, the Sequessome vesicles are contained deep within the skin and the residual gel layer can be washed off or wiped away with a wet tissue before applying a moisturiser.
The National Eczema Society has lots of useful tips, advice and helplines on their website: http://www.eczema.org/
Allergy UK has advice on eczema as well as information on food triggers and intolerances: https://www.allergyuk.org/skin-allergy/atopic-eczema
Do you have a top tip to help manage eczema? Let us know in the comments below