Suzanne Coleman, MD
If you have an itchy reddish spot or itchy small bumps that are driving you crazy, it might be eczema. Eczema can happen when sensitive skin gets dry and irritated and starts to itch. It can be intolerably itchy! Let’s fix that.
Eczema can be in a small spot or on a larger area of skin. It’s generally treatable if you do exactly what I tell you here:
1. Buy and use only soaps and lotions without any perfumes or dyes in them. Most lotions like this are marked “hypoallergenic” (which means it won’t bother people with allergies, like people who get eczema), or some will simply say “no added colors or perfumes.” Soaps are a bit harder, but try and find one for “sensitive skin,” like some Dove products. Smell the bar and if it has a strong smell, find one that has no smell, or a milder odor.
2. This is very important, laundry detergent and anything else that goes on the clothes also needs to be scent and dye free. Luckily for those of us who suffer from these things, these healthier soaps are now easily found in any store. They are usually the laundry soaps in the white bottles. Also, be sure your fabric softener is also dye and perfume free. These are critical as the clothes will be on your skin and if you sweat, any irritants can cause you to have a skin reaction.
Also, don’t use excess soap in the laundry, and whatever you use, make sure that it rinses out properly. The same goes for the fabric softener.
3. Try and avoid bleach, as it is a strong irritant.
4. After washing hands and after bathing apply the lotion mentioned in step one all over your skin. Do this every time you bathe and as often as your hands feel dry (in winter, this is usually after each time you wash them).
5. Avoid using hot water to wash or bathe in, it dries out the skin and makes it more likely to be irritated in general, and this predisposes you to more of a chance of eczema and itchy skin in general.
6. Avoid overheating your body. Sweating can cause irritation to the skin as can overheating. Use 100% cotton clothes from top to bottom and use layers so that if you, or your child, get too warm, you can just remove a layer. With kids, if their cheeks are red or you see any sweat on their hair you know they are definitely too warm. You should also touch their upper back under their layers and if they are sweating, remove one or more layers. Check them often until you get a sense of how many layers they need indoors and out. They will love you for it!
7. Keep your home and workplace properly humidified (see my article on winter dry skin and lips here). If you live in an area where you use heat in the winter, or just a dry area in general, humidity in the home is essential for healthy skin and lips, and as well as for your overall health. A good humidity level is 45-50% but can be adjusted to your personal preference. Above 50% you need to watch out for mold issues.
If you follow the above advice your eczema will usually improve and resolve in a couple of weeks, give or take. If you don’t see improvement, it may not be eczema. If you are in doubt or have concerns, always check with your personal physician as online information can only do so much.
Take care and thanks for reading, I hope this was helpful for you and your family. Please share with your friends 🙂