Because eczema is largely genetic, preventing it
completely is not possible. You can, however, prevent symptoms and reduce
flare-ups. Prevention does not require medication. Behavioral changes can have a significant
impact and reduce the likelihood of an eczema flare-up.
According to the American
Academy of Dermatologists (AAD), people with atopic dermatitis (eczema) may scratch their skin 500 to 1,000
times per day. All of this scratching can actually make symptoms worse. It can
also invite infection.
Avoid scratching whenever possible. Alternative ways to
reduce itchiness include:
- a cold compress against the skin
- soaking in a lukewarm or cool bath
- over-the-counter anti-itch creams
By reducing itchiness, you can prevent inflammation and
protect against breaks in the skin. This will in turn reduce the likelihood of infection
and allow the skin to heal.
You should also trim your nails short. If you can’t help
but scratch, shorter nails make it harder to break the skin.
Several irritants can increase the risk of an eczema
flare-up. These may include things like:
- certain synthetic fabrics
- rough fabrics like wool
- laundry detergents and fabric softeners
- body soaps and lotions
- extreme weather
Learn which irritants
bring on eczema symptoms by keeping track of
which products you used and the type of clothing you wore before a flare-up.
Once you’ve pinpointed the culprits, try to avoid or at least minimize contact
with these irritants. Wear loose-fitting clothes made from cotton or a cotton
blend, use mild soaps and cleansers and fragrance-free detergent, and wear gloves
in the winter to protect your hands from dryness.
Alternatives to Scratching
The nerve fibers that cause your body to itch (and tempt
you to scratch) also respond favorably to pressure. Instead of scratching,
which increases the chances of broken skin and infection, try to rub areas that
are itchy. This could provide relief without the risk of infection.
Stress can trigger an eczema flare-up, and in the world
we live in, stress is common. Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing,
listening to relaxing music, progressive relaxation, yoga, and meditation.
These can help to soothe stress and control or reduce anxiety. Joining a
support group or just making time to have fun and socialize can also help
Dry skin can trigger an eczema flare-up and make the
skin condition more uncomfortable. Ask your dermatologist to recommend a
moisturizer that is ointment-based (such as one that contains petrolatum) or
cream-based, These can help to soothe the skin and are safe for eczema
Apply the moisturizer within three minutes after
bathing, while skin is still damp. Use a moisturizer every day, even on days
when you aren’t experiencing an eczema flare-up.
Plain Vaseline or over-the-counter emollients like Eucerin
cream are generally very helpful. However, you should avoid creams and lotions that
contain fragrance or dyes, as these can further irritate the skin.
Get Adequate Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep helps reduce stress, which
can bring on an eczema flare-up. The average adult should get between seven and
nine hours of sleep each night. This may require some rearranging of your
schedule, but the health benefits of sleep are numerous.