Eczema is a group of skin conditions that cause the skin to be inflamed and irritated. Doctors call eczema dermatitis and atopic eczema. The word atopic means it usually develops along with something else and dermatitis means it deals with the skin. The word atopic is a clue to how you get eczema, it is usually the result of something else.
Eczema and Allergies
The reason doctors refer to this condition as “atopic” is because it usually happens as a result of allergies. So, even if hay fever doesn’t have you sneezing or asthma doesn’t have you wheezing, your skin problem is probably a symptom of allergy.
Eczema begins with itching and a rash. Even before the rash shows up, the itching starts. The skin becomes dry. Then the dry skin becomes very thick and comes off in flakes or scales. It shows up on the face or behind the knees or even the wrists and hands. The more it flakes, the more the skin grows back with even thicker flakes. It seems like an endless cycle and it itches. This skin condition occurs in infants and adults.
Your skin is telling you that you are having an allergic reaction. Eczema tends to run in families with a history of asthma or allergies. Eczema is not contagious. If more than one person in the family has it; they didn’t catch it from another family member; they inherited it.
Since this is an allergy-related condition, it can’t be cured; but it can be controlled. Avoiding triggers like dust or pollen can help. In small children and infants, eczema is commonly caused by food allergies or allergies to soaps or laundry detergents.
Talk to the doctor about allergy-testing. You may have developed new allergies since your last test. Since avoidance is always key to controlling allergies, it pays to periodically update your allergy testing.
Your doctor may prescribe antihistamines or steroidal creams. Don’t use a hydrocortisone cream without talking to the doctor or pharmacist first. Some of these creams can irritate eczema and make it worse.
Be Kind to Your Skin
Don’t forget to be kind to your skin. It’s the largest organ in your body. Don’t wash in very hot water and gently pat skin dry when you are finished. Don’t rub and don’t scrub with the towel. Dermatologists recommend that you apply moisturizer while skin is still damp. Always use a paraben free moisturizer without any fragrance or dye. Parabens, formaldehydes, dyes and fragrances can all irritate your skin or cause an allergic reaction.
During a flare, cold compresses or a soak in a colloidal oatmeal bath are two ways to be especially kind to your skin.
Remember, you don’t get eczema from friends or roommates. This skin condition is not contagious; it is related to allergies and it can run in families.