Eczema is a common skin disease characterized by red, dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. It causes severe discomfort as the epidermis becomes very dry causing intense itchiness. This increases the desire to scratch which can lead to cracking of the skin and bleeding. There is no cure for eczema but good management can help control the symptoms which are the main reasons of discomfort.
There are many misconceptions about eczema. These includes the disease being contagious and caused by having poor hygiene. These misbeliefs lead to discrimination and bullying. Resulting eczema patients developing poor self-esteem because of how people treat them. They are teased and avoided due to their physical appearance by having severe rashes on their skin. The affected areas are usually the face, head, arms, inner elbows, and back of knees.
To be clear, eczema is not contagious. It is an inflammatory skin disease that is triggered by irritants such as dust or detergents. It is an abnormal reaction of the immune system when the body is exposed to irritants. It has nothing to do with poor hygiene. The triggering factors or irritants differ from person to person. The most common are: dusts, temperature changes, sudden drop in humidity, pets’ fur, detergents, leather, latex, makeup, sweating, and food allergies.
It is challenging to determine the triggering factor of a person’s eczema because the list of irritants is endless. It could be in the environment, food, fabrics, or even stress. The cause of the disease can also be genetic or an upper respiratory infection. In fact, there is a strong link between eczema, asthma, and hay fever. Children who have the skin disease are likely to develop asthma or hay fever.
The best way to cope with the disease is to avoid its triggering factor. Unfortunately, many fail to identify what causes a flare-up of their eczema even after many years of trying. For these people they have to manage the symptoms over a lifetime. Here are some tips on how to prevent eczema flare-ups:
Taking short baths and showers – Long exposure to water can soften the skin excessively causing it to peel-off easily. Limit bath time to 10 or 15 minutes.
Moisturizing skin at least twice a day, especially after bath while skin is still damp – this hydrate the skin and avoid dryness. Applying moisturizer while the skin is damp allows the epidermis to better absorb the moisturizer and soften the skin.
Using only gentle soap – choosing mild face and body cleanser is critical for people with sensitive skin. Beauty and antibacterial soaps tend to remove natural oils leaving the skin dry.
Avoiding strong detergents and other household cleaning products – they contain chemicals that can be irritating to skin. It is helpful to use gloves when using these products to protect the skin.
Taking bleach bath – According to the American Academy of Dermatology, bleach baths prevent flare-ups by removing bacteria on the skin. The ratio should be ½ cup of household bleach (not concentrated bleach) to 40 gallons of warm water. Use a bathtub to soak body from neck down or submerge just the affected skin in the water. This should be done no more than twice a week.
Avoiding too much sun exposure – the heat from the sun can absorb skin moisture making it dry and irritated.
Dealing with eczema is not a walk in a park. It involves varieties of strategies and approaches to prevent flare-ups. Furthermore, it is not just a skin issue. It can cause insecurities and can be emotionally draining. To people with eczema, I hope you find this article helpful in managing the symptoms. To those who don’t have eczema, I hope this helps you understand the disease better.