An Expert’s Guide to Dealing with Eczema
Only those with eczema truly understand how hard it can be to deal with. Skin can become extremely itchy and aggravated, causing stress (which then makes it even worse!). Jo Carey, skin specialist and LloydsPharmacy Pharmacist gives her advice on how to cope with symptoms and stresses related to eczema.
GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
People with eczema often find the urge to itch is heightened at night and getting to sleep can be difficult. This is largely due to the fact that in the day we are busy and distracted so ‘itch signals’ aren’t as strong. Being hot at night can also irritate skin and increase the impulse to itch.
Try keeping the bedroom window open at night and keep the central heating down to minimum when it’s required. A light duvet will also be better than a thick one that might cause you to be hot and sweaty and lead to irritation. Cotton bedding tends to irritate skin less than other mixed fabrics so if you can try and use cotton sheets and quit covers. Also, having a bath before bed relaxes muscles and may help you drift off to sleep easier but the water lukewarm!
KEEP A FOOD DIARY
A food allergy or intolerance can cause eczema symptoms in some people – dairy and wheat produce are some of the more common food allergens. Try keeping a food diary so you can work out if your diet is affecting your eczema. If you have noticed flare ups with certain foods, it’s best to see a dermatologist for advice before cutting things out of your diet. Free from foods are much more widely available these days and it can be fun experimenting with new recipes.
WORK OUT WITHOUT THE FLARE UP AFTERMATH
Exercise leads to increased sweating which can irritate eczema but it’s important to not let eczema control your life, so if you want to exercise don’t let having eczema stop you. Here are some simple tips to minimize the impact exercise will have:
Drink lots of water before, during and after exercise. Those with eczema will have inherently dry skin so it’s important to hydrate yourself when exercising to replace the water that is lost – and that means inside and out.
Moisturise before and after exercise. You don’t want to use something heavy as that would be counterproductive and trap sweat in. Instead, opt for something light and apply about an hour before working out. You can apply your richer emollient after a cool shower once you finish your work out.
Keep cool by taking regular breaks. Listen to your body and try not to overheat. Cold compression wraps are also great for cooling skin down.
Opt for a loose fitting cotton t-shirt and loose shorts. Tight fitting clothing may be great for absorbing sweat but it’s not great for eczema. Loose fitting cotton will generally be more comfortable and less irritable.
MANAGE WEATHER CHANGES
Eczema reacts badly to rapid changes in temperature as well as extreme hot or cold temperatures. High humidity for example can lead to symptoms similar to prickly-heat, whilst low humidity may dry the skin out. Things like central heating in the winter can also often a trigger. The best thing you can do is make sure your home is as comfortable as possible by controlling the heating. Keep it low and wear light cotton sleepwear. Make sure you dress for the weather when going out and about. It’s also essential that you use a good moisturiser regularly to hydrate the skin.
Stress can cause eczema to become inflamed so managing this can help you control your eczema. Making sure you get enough sleep and talking with others that live with eczema can be really helpful for this. Breathing exercises, yoga and meditation techniques are also great for relaxation.
The National Eczema Society has lots of useful tips, advice and helplines on their website: http://www.eczema.org/