What is Eczema?
Eczema or atopic dermatitis—”winter’s itch” or “the itch that rashes”—tends to appear or worsen in the winter months and is very itchy. It can also cause dry, irritated, and inflamed skin. The rash of atopic dermatitis often waxes and wanes, but is typically chronic.
Atopic dermatitis most commonly occurs in children, but can occur in anyone at any age. It can be passed along genetically within families, meaning it can be inherited. It’s important to note, however, that atopic dermatitis is not contagious.
Symptoms of atopic dermatitis
The most common symptom of atopic dermatitis is intense itching, often accompanied by inflamed, dry, red, scaly skin. Allergens, irritants, stress, and temperature extremes can trigger a flare (worsening) of atopic dermatitis.
Although no cure currently exists for eczema, lifestyle modifications and medications can improve and control the symptoms of atopic dermatitis. The BEST thing you can do for eczema is to maintain a consistent eczema care routine and keep the skin moisturized.
Eczema is a chronic condition, best managed with a regimen of daily care. Establish a routine for your eczema care—and stick with it!
- Eczema can be thought of as a combination of skin dryness, sensitivity, and allergy. Everyday skin care is the most important factor in preventing flares.
- Moisturize your skin at least 3 to 4 times per day. Moisturizing is especially important after skin has been wet—for example, after bathing, showering, or washing hands. Aspen Mountain Dermatology recommends these excellent moisturizers.
- CeraVe® Moisturizing Cream (not lotion)
- Vanicream® Moisturizing Skin Cream
- Cetaphil® Restoraderm Lotion
- Cetaphil® Cream
- Avoid hot water; it can further leach moisture from already dry skin. Shower or bathe in water that’s warm (not hot).
- Avoid using soap all over the body. Instead, use a mild soap, such as Cetephil® or Dove®, only in areas that require cleansing (the groin, armpits, and buttocks). Try to avoid washing areas covered with a rash more than once or twice per day, if possible.
- Recognizing and avoiding stressful situations or those that cause anxiety can help to minimize eczema flares.
We may recommend bleach baths. While they may sound strange and even irritating, bleach baths are actually very beneficial for eczematous skin. People with eczema or atopic skin often have breaks in the skin barrier that can allow infectious microbes to penetrate the skin, causing secondary problems like infections. The most common bacteria that can affect those with eczema is Staph aureus, which causes further inflammation and pruritus (severe itching). Bleach baths keep these infections to a minimum and actually are very calming for the skin.
Bleach bath directions
Use ½ cup of bleach in a full bathtub of warm—not hot—water, or ¼ cup for a half-full bathtub. Following the bath, lightly pat down skin with a towel. (Do not rub skin aggressively to dry it.) It’s important to apply a good cream moisturizer within 2 minutes of bathing to lock in moisture.
We may prescribe topical medications to be used during an eczema flare. These medications work with the immune system to calm down inflammation and help to relieve itch. For severe or refractory cases (those not responding to topical medications), systemic medications may be utilized. At Aspen Mountain Dermatology, we will work with you and your lifestyle to provide the best treatment for you.