Eczema is a “twitchy skin” condition, often affecting the face, elbows, knees and hands, is also known as Atopic dermatitis. This red, scaly, itchy rash at times may look very dry or ooze. It is commonly seen in infant and children but can occur later in life in individuals with personal or family histories of atopy, such as asthma or allergic rhinitis (‘hay fever”). There is a strong connection between eczema in childhood and the later development of asthma.
The things that flare eczema tend to be irritants. Identifying the cause of the itch is essential in managing symptoms. The most important irritant by far is heat and sweat. Keeping the temperature cooler at home and work helps in a major way. Humidifying the air when the heat is on is also useful. Cool, tepid baths and showers are helpful.
Children can have worsening of eczema when they have contact with things that cause the skin to wet. This includes playdough, clay, and wool. They should not crawl on wool carpets or have woolen clothing. Cotton is best. For some patients, usually in children, food can also trigger eczema. About 20% of children notice an improvement in symptoms by avoiding a particular food. Dust mites, cockroaches and animal dander are also irritants. Animals include any furry animal such as cats, dogs, rodents, rabbits and birds.
Eczema of the hand especially of fingers get worse with peeling fruits and vegetables especially onions and garlic. Also, exposure to soap and water can trigger reactions. These should be avoided.
Flare-ups of eczema can also be due to emotional upset and stress. Finding ways to manage stress can be useful. If sleep is affected due to itching, a sedating antihistamine is helpful.
Skin allergy testing can diagnose food and other allergens that may be triggers. PATCH test some time can diagnose contact /irritant worsening the symptoms.
Preventing the eczema itch is the primary goal of treatment. Patient must stop scratching and rubbing the rash. Applying cold compress is helpful, and lubricating the dry skin with cream or ointment, especially during dry seasons, is essen¬tial; Vaseline, Aquaphore, Cetaphil and Eucerin are very effective. All “irritants” that aggravate the eczema should be removed from the environments, like animals. If a food is identified as the culprit, it should be eliminated from the diet.