Eczema

Eczema (or dermatitis) is another common skin condition that can be mild to severe. Doctors still don’t fully understand what causes it but it is thought to occur more often in people who have very dry skin and there may be a genetic element. If both of your parents have eczema, it is possible that you will too. Eczema is not infectious.

Eczema causes the skin to become inflamed, dry and blistered, itchy and it can crack and bleed. If you have eczema, you will probably know about it already as it usually appears in very young children but sometimes it can occur for the first time in your teenage years. You may notice itchy rashes in places like behind the knees or in your elbow creases or on your hands. It is important to seek medical advice to diagnose the problem and you may be prescribed creams and ointments to help soothe your skin and moisturisers to help prevent your skin becoming too dry.

Eczema is itchy and the urge to scratch it can be overwhelming but you really must try hard not to. Scratching will make the condition worse and can cause further problems. Gently rub your skin to alleviate the itch, keep your nails short and keep the affected skin covered to try to avoid temptation.

Common triggers include some food allergies (for example, cow’s milk and wheat), some clothes fabrics (such as wool), chemical irritants (washing powder, soaps, etc), cold and dry or hot weather, other environmental factors (such as pollen and pet fur), hormonal changes and skin infections. Not all triggers affect all sufferers, though – this is a skin condition that varies greatly from person to person.

Although eczema cannot be cured there are steps you can take to avoid flare-ups:

  • avoid heavily fragranced soaps and lotions that may irritate your skin. Make sure your clothes are laundered in detergents suitable for sensitive skin.
  • wear fabrics that don’t irritate your skin, such as a fine-weave cotton
  • keep your bedroom cool if heat aggravates your skin
  • regularly apply a moisturiser that suits your skin, especially after a bath or shower
  • take short, warm showers and baths (over-washing isn’t good for dry skin)
  • wear rubber gloves when washing up or if you are going to have your hands in water for a long time
  • try to stay relaxed as stress can increase the likelihood of an eczema flare-up.

As you get older, your parents will be less involved in the day-to-day care of your symptoms and it is important that you learn how to care for your skin yourself. Here is some helpful advice about taking on the responsibility for managing your eczema.