01 October 2019
October marks the start of Eczema Awareness Month. This campaign aims to raise awareness, reduce stigma and illuminate eczema’s true impacts.
Dr Namita Jasani, Consultant Dermatologist discusses how to look after you or your little one’s eczema.
Eczema (also known as dermatitis) is a chronic, condition where skin is dry, inflamed and itchy. In mild cases of eczema, the skin is dry, scaly, red and itchy. In more severe cases there may be weeping, crusting and bleeding.
Skin barrier in eczema
The skin provides a physical barrier against environmental insults and water loss. You can imagine the top layer of skin as a brick wall. The skin cells are bricks, and the fats and oils are like mortar that keeps brick wall intact.
In eczema this natural barrier is broken. If you have eczema, your skin may not produce as much fats and oils as other people’s, and will be less able to retain water. The protective barrier is therefore not as good as it should be. By applying the moisturiser we are trying to seal the moisture in the skin and restore the barrier.
Soap and bubble bath will remove oil from anyone’s skin, but if you have eczema your skin breaks down more easily, quickly becoming irritated, cracked and inflamed. Hence it best to avoid it and use medicated prescribed soap and bath oils.
- Clean: Take one bath or shower daily, using lukewarm (not hot water) for 10-15 minutes. Use prescribed bath oil or shower substitute instead of plain water. This will help hydrate your skin. Avoid all soaps and bubble baths as they dry out the skin. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing the affected skin with a cloth or loofah.
- Treat: After drying the skin with a soft towel apply the prescribed topical medication (topical steroid or topical immunomodulator) to the affected area of the skin as directed by your doctor.
- Moisturise: Moisturise liberally all of your skin with prescribed medical moisturiser. Ointments are suitable for very dry skin as they can be very greasy and they do not have preservative. Creams are mixture of fat and water and they lock moisture. It’s more acceptable to use cream in daytime. Creams are better then lotions as it locks more moisture. Lotions have more water and less fat so they are not very effective in moisturising. Moisturise few times a day. Pump applicators are better they decrease risk of contamination.
Weather: Many patient’s find winter exacerbate their eczema. Use ointments which are more greasier than creams. Apply moisturiser to exposed part of the body more frequently and before going outdoor. Avoid extreme fluctuation of temperature.
Many children grow out of eczema with time but few carry it into adulthood.