Itchy skin? Learn About Eczema

Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory and itchy skin condition often occurring mostly in children. Symptoms include dry skin, redness, itching, swelling and oozing. It can also be used to widely describe any rash-like skin condition and is often used interchangeably with dermatitis, a general term meaning inflammation of the skin. This can have many causes and comes in various forms. 


How does this develop? It can actually be genetic, or stem from a skin defect and even an overactive immune system appears to cause it. Other household items like cosmetics, detergents, household cleaners, jewelry, environmental allergens, sweat and stress can trigger this common skin condition. Utilizing topical creams or making lifestyle changes can help clear it up. 

Eczema flares up when intense itching begins, followed by a red, bumpy rash. Antihistamines or hydrocortizone cream can help relieve itching. Sometimes it can go away on its own or with a few days of self-care at home. Other types can require months of treatment from a dermatologist. It can be stubborn and sometimes stronger medications are the only solution. Moisturizing, de-stressing and avoiding any irritants and allergens can help prevent eczema from returning. 

20% of children and 2% of adults are believed to have eczema. 

Treatment may include one or more of these: 

  • Keeping the skin moisturized 
  • Avoiding too much time in water 
  • Avoiding triggers 
  • Topical or oral corticosteroids 
  • Antihistamines 
  • Antibiotics (for infection) 
  • Immunosuppressant drugs 
  • Ultraviolet light therapy

Self-care strategies include: 

  • Applying 1% hydrocortisone cream twice daily 
  • Applying moisturizer frequently, especially immediately after baths or showers 
  • Applying emollients with petroleum jelly 
  • Taking short warm -- not hot -- baths and showers 
  • Avoiding anything you know irritates your skin, such as soaps, detergents, household cleaners, animals, or skin products with alcohol 
  • Preventing sweating and overheating by avoiding hard exercise during a flare 
  • Applying cold compresses 
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothes 
  • Reducing stress

A dermatologist will examine your skin and evaluate all of your medical history. They may also order skin path tests to identify causes of allergic reaction.