6 Things Your Eczema is Trying to Tell You – Prevention Magazine
- Posted on: Mar 26 2018
6 Things Your Eczema Is Trying To Tell You
“It’s not uncommon for people with eczema to have a flare-up during the summer” when pollen levels are at their highest, says David E. Bank, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder and director of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in Mt. Kisco, New York. But resist the urge to itch, he advises, or you’ll make skin even more inflamed and irritated. Instead, apply hydrocortisone cream and gentle, fragrance-free moisturizers like Cetaphil Restoraderm. “Preventing and reducing flares of eczema is really about repairing the barrier function of the skin,” Bank says. “This means minimizing things that can strip the skin, like harsh cleansers and hot water in the bath or shower, and helping to maintain and sustain the water that is already in the skin.”
“Skin irritants, such as itchy clothing, harsh cleansers, or even sweat, will trigger the inflammatory cascade that leads to eczema,” says Jessie Cheung, MD, a dermatologist, at Jessie Cheung Dermatology & Laser Center in Willowbrook, IL. / NYC. “The first step to determining possible triggers is to avoid common irritants such as strong soaps, wool, and fragrances.”
Your derm can help eliminate the guesswork by doing patch testing to identify reactions to specific allergens, Plotner adds. Some common offenders she sees: metals (like those found in your smartphone), fragrance, certain preservatives, and antibiotics in topical ointments like Benadryl or Neosporin.
Cold weather provokes flare-ups because the dry air sucks the moisture out of your skin. “It’s important to cover all areas of exposed skin during the colder months,” says Joel Schlessinger, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf advisor. “Even when you’re not outside, cranking up the heat in your home can have a similar effect. Running a humidifier can restore moisture to the air around you and help ease symptoms.” But be sure to set your humidifier below 60% humidity, Schlessinger advises, otherwise condensed moisture can lead to harmful bacteria growth. To combat winter bouts of eczema, Bank also suggests taking 5- to 10-minute warm (not hot!) showers and washing the skin with a gentle cleansing bar like Aveeno Moisturizing Bar. (And avoid these bad habits that make winter skin even worse.)
In rare cases, a bacterial infection could spur a flare-up, as well as more serious complications like cellulitis, says Plotner. Though eczema doesn’t typically signal a larger whole body issue, it’s always best to play it safe and see your doctor if your skin condition isn’t improving with minor treatment.
Stasis dermatitis, a form of eczema provoked by swelling of the lower legs, could be a symptom of something worse, such as the inflammation associated with congestive heart failure, says Plotner.