Eczema is a chronic skin disorder that involves scaly and itchy rashes. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type.
Atopic dermatitis is due to a hypersensitivity reaction (similar to an allergy) in the skin, leading to long-term inflammation of the skin.
Taking care of your skin at home may reduce the need for medications.
Avoid scratching the rash or skin if you can:
Antihistamines taken by mouth may help with itching or if you have allergies. Often you can buy them yourself over the counter.
Keep the skin moist (called lubricating or moisturizing the skin). Use ointments (such as petroleum jelly), creams, or lotions 2 - 3 times a day. Moisturizers should be free of alcohol, scents, dyes, fragrances, or other chemicals. A humidifier in the home will also help.
Moisturizers and emollients work best when they're applied to skin that is wet or damp. After washing or bathing, pat the skin dry and then apply the moisturizer right away.
Different types of emollients or moisturizers may be used at different times of the day. For the most part, you can apply these substances as often as you need, to keep your skin soft.
When washing or bathing:
The skin rash itself, as well as the scratching, often cause a break in the skin and may lead to an infection. Learn to keep an eye out for redness, warmth, swelling or other signs of infection.
Topical corticosteroids are medicines used to treat conditions where your skin becomes red, sore, or inflamed. Topical means you place it on the skin. Topical corticosteroids may also be called topical steroids or topical cortisones.
Topical steroids contain a hormone that helps “calm” your skin when it is swollen or inflamed. Your doctor will tell you how much of this medicine to use and how often. Do not use more medicine or use it more often than your doctor advises you to..
Your health care provider may give you other medicines to use on your skin or take by mouth. Be sure to follow directions carefully.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:
Eczema - self-care
Breternitz M. Placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized, prospective study of a glycerol-based emollient on eczematous skin in atopic dermatitis: biophysical and clinical evaluation. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2008 Jan; 21(1): 39-45.
Wollenberg A, Schnopp C. Evolution of conventional therapy in atopic dermatitis. Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America. 2010 Aug; 30(3).
Updated by: Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, Dermatologist in Private Practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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