Eczema is a chronic and complex itchy skin condition. But it is more than just a skin condition. For those living with eczema, it can vary from a mild to moderate itch to an extremely itchy, painful and debilitating condition, with huge effects on quality of life. There are different types of eczema, the most common being atopic eczema. (Download Info Sheet)
Eczema symptoms can vary from person to person and may look different to what you expect. It is important to get a qualified diagnosis. It can look very different in babies/children and adults. The most common symptoms include ;
- Dry Skin
- Red to brownish-gray patches. Inflammation can look different on different coloured skin.
- Thickened, cracked, oozing or scaly skin
- Sensitive, raw skin
- Topical treatment: topical corticosteroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors, crisaborole
- Systemic treatment: oral corticosteroid, cyclosporine, azathioprine, methotrexate, mycophenolate mofetil, dupilumab, baricitinib
Eczema is NOT contagious. Eczema is a genetic condition and the myth that it is contagious is a serious concern. People with eczema require empathy and compassion and people should be aware there is no way they can contract the condition by contact with someone with the condition.
Eczema can be influence by genetics (runs in the family) and/or environmental factors (external triggers). It is an autoimmune disorder resulting in inflammation and itch. People with eczema also have a defective skin barrier. The skin is less able to protect a person from irritants and allergens.
There is no ‘cure’ for eczema –awareness and avoidance of the triggers is the key, together with management of the symptoms. Many people hope for that ‘one thing’ that will fix their eczema or prevent the flare ups. As eczema is a chronic and very complex condition that can be different for each individual, it is unusual to be ‘one thing’ that will be the answer.
That said, there are some hopeful new medical treatment options becoming available. Talk to your medical specialist about your options.
While some children will grow out of eczema as they get older, others will have the condition throughout their lives and the goal is to prevent flare-ups and manage symptoms when they do occur.
Topical steroids or topical corticosteroids are considered very safe and effective for all ages, even babies under 1 year old, when used as directed by your medical professional. Topical steroids and other topical treatments are the foundation for eczema flare up management. Used correctly, they will improve quality of life.
Eczema bleach baths, as explained in our information resource sheet (link) are safe, if used as directed by your doctor.
The eczema bleach bath recipe is about the same concentration as a chlorine swimming pool. For children and adults prone to reoccurring infected eczema, often the culprit is high levels of harmful bacteria, particularly Staphylococcus aureus, on the skin which contributes to itching and inflammation. Eczema bleach baths are a safe way to control these bacteria and is an effective treatment when used with other eczema treatments as prescribed by your doctor.
There is a link between eczema and food allergy, but not in a way many may think. Food allergies may trigger eczema, but it is not the cause of it. In fact, it could be the other way around. Eczema may result in food allergy. Food allergy is common in children with eczema and recent research is indicating that children with eczema exposed to food allergens through the skin, such as food/plant-based skin products, may result in food sensitisation or allergy.
If a food is suspected of causing delayed eczema flare ups, elimination diets should be supervised by an allergy/immunology specialist. Removing food from a child’s diet can result in malnutrition or even the development of a new food allergy.
Lots! As a general rule, eczema skin may need several applications a day every day. Daily maintenance of eczema skin of at least 2-3 times a day is essential to reduce flare ups. You may find different emollients are best at different times of the day or year. For example, a greasy ointment may be ideal at night or in the cooler months, but less comfortable in hot weather or with certain clothing.
The best emollient to use is the one you will use often. An emollient that you find pleasant and comfortable is more likely to be applied frequently.
Select a moisturizer that is dye- and fragrance-free
What about natural creams/lotions/oils?
There are lots of products on the market claiming to be natural and good for eczema. Not all are considered safe. For example the latest research into the rise in food allergy suggests infants and those with allergic conditions should avoid using skin products containing foods as it may sensitise individuals resulting in a new food allergy. Plant and food based skin products may contain ingredients such as oats, goat milk, nuts, wheat etc.
There are lots of products on the market claiming to be natural and good for eczema. Not all are considered safe. For example - the latest research into the rise in food allergy suggests infants and those with allergic conditions should avoid using skin products containing foods as it may sensitise individuals resulting in a new food allergy.
Plant and food-based skin products may contain ingredients such as oats, goat milk, nuts, wheat etc.