Eczema can affect adults as well as small babies and cause itching, dryness and skin changes. The key component in controlling eczema is good skin care. For mild eczema treatment, modification in the skin care routine and a few lifestyle changes are needed. People with severe eczema may need to take medications in order to control the symptoms.
The natural eczema treatment is also effective in mild cases, however if your skin does not respond to natural treatment it is better to consult a doctor. The baby eczema treatment depends on its severity and doctors may advise you to use emollient lotion, cream or ointment in mild cases along with a short course of low strength steroid cream.
We are discussing the various methods of treatment of Eczema that include medications, proper care, avoiding triggers, and natural remedies. We will also discuss the treatments recommended for babies as the disease is very common in children below 5 years of age.
Steps in the Treatment of Eczema
Eczema is a chronic illness and cannot be treated completely however, it can be controlled by proper skin care. The symptoms of eczema in most of the people are made worse by common aspects of daily living, like hot water, soap, etc. You can follow the steps mentioned below to better manage your eczema and reduce the flare up frequency.
The 3 steps to effectively manage eczema are:
1) Bathing and proper moisturizing of the skin to repair the skin barrier
2) Treatment of eczema via medications
3) Avoid triggers to reduce the flare ups
Bathing and Proper Moisturizing
When you take a bath, moisture enters your skin and when you coat the skin with an emollient or moisturizer after every bath or shower, the moisture is sealed in the skin. This is important in the case of eczema patients as the natural skin barrier that normally traps the moisture in the skin does not work well. So their skin is left dry, rough and sensitive to irritants. The bathing and moisturizing technique helps in hydrating the skin. Previously, the doctors recommended that the patients with eczema must limit their showers and baths however, as per the experts, bathing is very important in controlling eczema.
After taking a bath, you may need to pat your skin dry and apply moisturizer on the damp skin immediately. You may need to apply the prescription products as recommended by your physician. The moisturizer must be applied several times throughout the day. The moist skin reduces the itchiness and controls the disease as the flares occur as a response to itching. In order to manage eczema and flares, you must take a bath 2 or 3 times a day followed by the moisturizer.
Things to Keep in Mind while Taking a Shower
Some adults prefer taking a shower instead of taking a bath, and they must ensure that they take a shower in warm water. A gentle cleanser and shower oil must be used while showering. After a shower, pat the skin dry gently and apply moisturizer and prescription products (as indicated by the physician) on damp skin.
Bathing and Moisturizing Regimen
You should follow the bathing regimen diligently during flare ups and after the flare ups as preventive maintenance. If the skin is smooth, soft and properly moisturized, you can take a bath once a day instead of 2 or 3 times. The skin must be moisturized several times daily even when the skin is healthy.
Step by Step Instructions to take a Bath during Eczema
You can follow these bathing steps to keep your skin hydrated at least once a day when the skin is smooth and up to 3 times a day when the skin has flare ups.
You will need a bathtub, emulsifying oil, gentle cleanser, moisturizer, prescription medications (topical corticosteroids), a watch or clock and a soft natural fiber towel.
Fill the bath tub with lukewarm water and add some emulsifying oil to it.
Immerse the patient in water covering as much of the body as possible. Do not immerse head in water. If eczema is on the face and head you can use a soft wash cloth soaked in water to clean those areas. You can soak in the bath for 5 to 15 minutes.
Apply a gentle cleanser on the areas of the body that require additional cleaning.
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Dry off excess water gently with a soft towel and leave the skin slightly damp.
Apply your medications as prescribed by your doctor after that. The corticosteroids such as Hydrocortisone and Fucidin H are typically applied on damp skin. The prescriptions that are non-cortisone based, for example Elidel or Protopic, the skin must be completely dry before applying. Avoid the healthy skin while applying these products.
Apply moisturizer to the remaining healthy skin. If most of your skin is covered in eczema, the prescription products can be used after the bath and then a coat of moisturizer can be applied on the entire body after 30 minutes.
Choosing the Best Moisturizers, Cleansers, and Bath Products
If you are confused which moisturizers, cleansers and bath products will be best for eczema, you can keep the following points in mind and select the products accordingly.
Choose the products that have few ingredients and are formulated for sensitive skin and eczema. You should choose thick moisturizers that moisturize the skin and provide a barrier.
Select a product that fits in your budget as it is not necessarily true that the expensive products are better.
You can also ask your doctor to recommend a skin cleanser and moisturizer. Apply it during the day whenever you feel the affected skin is dry or itchy.
You can ask the pharmacist to order a larger container of moisturizer as it will cost less.
While selecting a skin cleanser, try the products that are labeled for use on sensitive skin. You can use products such as Dove, Oil of Olay, Basis, Eucerin, Neutrogena and Aveeno.
It is better to use ointments and creams instead of lotion for very dry skin due to eczema. The various products that you can use for moisturizing the skin are Aquaphor ointment, Eucerin crème, Vanicream, Cetaphil cream etc.
Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) via Medication
In order to control eczema, medical management is very important. The medication that includes topical creams, histamines, antibiotics and ointments should be used as per your physician’s prescription. You should not discontinue using the prescribed medications and must not change the treatment plan without your doctor’s advice. There are various anti- inflammatory topical treatments, antibiotics and antihistamines that can be used to treat eczema. These must be used in addition to the daily skin care to control the infection.
Topical Steroid Creams
Topical corticosteroids include steroid medicines applied to the skin and these are drugs that provide relief from inflammation and itching. They are helpful if the rash is not well controlled and are available in many forms such as ointments, creams, gels, lotions and tape. The topical steroids are available in different strengths such as low or very strong.
It is better not to substitute one topical steroid for another without consulting your doctor. Topical steroids are safe and effective for the treatment of Eczema when used correctly. The possible side effect of these preparations is thinning of skin if used in excess or for extended periods.
The steroid pills and liquids namely prednisone, have side effects and usually the symptoms persist once you stop taking the medications, so must be avoided.
Non-steroid Medical Devices or Barrier Repair Creams
Some topical products are not regulated by the FDA however require prescriptions since they are registered as medical devices and have been developed for treatment of the itchy rashes developed due to eczema. These are Epicream, Atopiclair and MimyX, etc. Epicream is safe to be used by patients of all ages. It has a unique 3:1:1 composition of the essential lipids that are missing from the skin of patients suffering from atopic dermatitis or eczema.
Ointment for Eczema- TCI (Topical Immunomodulators Topical Clacineurin Inhibitors)
These are also topical medicines and applied to the skin for treating eczema. They provide relief from inflammation and are not steroids, so have lesser side effects. TCI may cause a burning sensation on the skin as a side effect and is not long lasting. Protopic ointment/tacrolimus and Elidel cream/pimecrolimus are common TCI’s used.
Eczema lotion- Anti-Infective Ointment
The skin infections caused by bacteria, fungus and viruses such as impetigo, athlete’s foot or cold sores can complicate eczema treatment. In such cases, antibiotics, antifungal and antiviral medications are applied on the skin and pills and liquids are taken orally. The skin infection if not treated promptly may get out of control so it is better to contact your doctor as soon as you think you have an infection.
Topical antibiotics like Mupirocrin and fusidic acid are effective for treating eczema. The combination of topical treatments helps in reducing inflammation and clear secondary infection.
Antihistamines taken orally are used to control the allergy symptoms and reduce itching. Some antihistamines cause drowsiness and aid in sleep. The creams and lotions for treating eczema that contain antihistamines or anesthetics should be avoided as they cause skin irritation and allergic skin reactions. As you increase skin hydration by taking a bath and regular moisturizing, the need for histamines is decreased.
Tar-based Soaps and Shampoos
The skin and scalp products that contain coal tar extracts have been used to treat and reduce rashes and itching in eczema patients for a long time. These are milder when compared to other medicines and have long lasting relief from inflammation and have lesser side effects. The shampoos that are tar-based can be used when the scalp is red and itchy. T-Gel is one of the most popular tar based shampoos.
Avoid Triggers to Reduce the Flare ups.
The people with eczema may have frequent flare ups from time to time and it may be triggered due to certain irritants. We are listing a few irritants that you can avoid to reduce the flare ups.
Soaps and Detergents
Soaps and detergents tend to make the skin dry and itchy by removing the natural oils from the skin. You should avoid soaps and bubble baths and use thick moisturizer after taking a bath. While using detergents, you must wear rubber gloves with cotton lining. Also rinse the clothes washed in detergents properly. Avoid using fabric conditioners.
Toiletries and perfumes
The preservatives, alcohol and perfumes in toiletries and make up can be irritating for some people so it is better to avoid such products. Instead use the products that are without any perfumes.
It is better to use smooth, natural fabrics such as cotton instead of using woolen or artificial fabrics.
The extremity in temperature and humidity are known to trigger flare ups of eczema symptoms.
Habitual Scratching and Itch Scratch Cycle
The more you scratch the worse the itch gets and you feel like scratching more. This is known as the itch scratch cycle and it makes eczema worse. Avoid scratching and if you feel like scratching, use your fingers instead of nails.
The infections often introduced due to scratching aggravate eczema.
The common foods that trigger eczema symptoms are cow’s milk, soya, eggs, fish and nuts. In some cases, immediate food allergy occurs that result in the development of the symptoms within 2 hours of eating the trigger food. Delayed food allergy may also occur in 6-24 hours with increased itching and abdominal pain along with diarrhea.
Many people may also be allergic to house dust mites and emollients and short courses of topical steroids are good enough for them. This is because it is difficult to remove the dust mites completely from your home.
Some Methods of Natural Eczema Treatment
The medicine for eczema has several side effects, so some people do not like using medicine for treating eczema. If you are allergic to medicine, natural remedies can be used to ease the itching, dryness and skin changes caused as a result of eczema. The below mentioned methods of treating eczema naturally will help your skin retain moisture and will improve the way your skin looks and feels.
You can use raw aloe from the actual plant instead of purchasing an aloe product. Snap the leaf and squeeze out the clear, gel like substance. Smear the gel on the affected skin and the leaf can be stored in refrigerator for multiple uses. Aloe Vera does not have any side effects and has moisturizing as well as anti- inflammatory properties. Aloe is highly effective in eczema treatment as it soothes the itching as well as moisturizes the dry and flaky skin.
You can apply calendula lotion on your skin as it has no side effects if applied topically. It can also be mixed in Aloe Vera gel before applying on the skin. Calendula is a flower and its extract is used in skin lotions and salves to reduce inflammation and pain. You can also use soaps, oils, lotions and creams with calendula oil that you can purchase from health food stores.
Oatmeal has anti-inflammatory properties and can relieve the discomfort brought by inflammation and itchiness associated with eczema. Take 1 cup of oatmeal and pour it into cheesecloth or muslin cloth and tie it off securely. Tie this in the bathtub when it is half filled and then wait till the bath tub is completely filled. The water should be milky and smooth. The bath in this water is recommended for at least 10 to 15 minutes.
You can also try oatmeal paste by mixing oatmeal in water till it forms a paste. You can apply it on the eczema affected area.
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Chamomile compress is a natural eczema treatment which is quite popular as it reduces itchiness and calms inflammation. You can prepare chamomile tea by brewing the dried flowers of chamomile in boiling water for 15 minutes. Strain the flowers and allow the tea to cool down. After that, make a warm compress by soaking a clean cloth in it and removing excess moisture. Press the cloth against the skin affected by eczema for 10-15 minutes.
The oil can also be used directly on the skin or a few drops can be added to a warm bath. It is important to do a patch test as some people are allergic to chamomile.
Use Coconut Oil
It is advisable to use organic cold pressed coconut oil for eczema treatment as it is very effective when compared to expensive creams bought from stores. It can be easily found in health food stores, supermarkets and online. The oil has to be applied on eczema patches all over the body and allow the oil to sink in. The cold pressed oil is recommended as it is processed at temperatures below 116 degrees to keep the nutrients, enzymes and minerals of the oil preserved.
Sweet Almond Oil
Sweet almond oil contains ursolic and oleic acid which reduce the inflammation and repair the skin so it is used for treating eczema. The oil can be applied all over the body before a bath and shower and creates a barrier against the drying effect of hot water.
Cut the lemon in half and place it on the affected area. You may experience a burning sensation. The skin burns if you have broken skin. The lemon removes the inflammation from the skin.
Treatment of your Baby’s Eczema
Eczema is quite common in babies and the symptoms such as dry, sensitive skin with red patches and itching occurs in them. The baby may first develop the disease in their infancy before they are two years old. The baby eczema treatment involves child care along with a prescription provided by your child’s doctor.
You must apply oils and moisturizing creams on your child’s skin to prevent their skin from getting dry as eczema can get worse if the skin is dry.
If your baby is scratching at his or her rash, put cotton mittens on the baby’s hands at night. Cut the nails short and keep them clean. You can also consult the doctor to discuss the possibility of antihistamines for a few days so that the child can rest and the rash can heal.
You can also help sooth your child’s itch by applying a soft, cool and wet towel to the itchy area for 5 to 10 minutes and then apply moisturizer over the area.
Bathing and Moisturizing your Baby
Give your child short warm baths once a day and add moisturizing bath oil to the baby’s bath. Do not use soap on young children as they don’t need it. For older kids, you may use a mild soap to clean. After a bath, pat dry the excess water with a soft towel and apply moisturizing cream such as Sorbolene to help in retaining the moisture.
Medications for your Kids
You can use Cortisone ointments and creams for treating eczema. Apply small amounts of these ointments to the affected areas as directed by your child’s doctor. Itching is usually worse after hot baths and at night so you can apply the ointments and rub them well. The cortisone creams must be used sparingly and use the weakest ointment that is still effective such as 0.5 % hydrocortisone. If your baby has eczema on his or her face, consult your doctor before using any ointments or creams.
Oral histamines are also prescribed by doctors if eczema is very itchy and a baby’s sleep is disturbed. If your child has severe eczema, stronger steroid creams and ointments may be recommended. If the treatment is not improving the condition of your child, it is better to consult a dermatologist.
Dry bandages and wet wrapping must be used in severe cases where the bandages are soaked in emollients or steroid creams and then dry bandages are wrapped on top of it. These help the ointments to soak into the skin.
If the eczema is infected due to scratching it may bleed, crust over or weep the fluid. The doctors may provide antibiotic cream if a small area is infected. In case the infection is spread in a large area, antibiotic medicines need to be taken by mouth.
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