Dry skin that worsens and becomes red, inflamed and itchy can be a sign that you are suffering from a common form of eczema called atopic dermatitis.
This condition affects up to one third of people and is more common in babies and children, who develop dry scaly patches on the skin which can be intensely itchy. Most people develop atopic dermatitis before the age of 5 years. Half of those who develop the condition in childhood continue to have symptoms as an adult.
There is often a family history of eczema and their may be a link between hayfever and/or asthma too. People with the condition will often experience periods of time where their symptoms flare up or worsen, followed by periods of time where their symptoms will improve or clear up.
The appearance of skin affected by atopic dermatitis will depend on how much a person scratches and whether the skin is infected. Scratching and rubbing further irritate the skin, increase inflammation, and make itchiness worse.
There are numerous things that people with eczema can do to support skin health and alleviate symptoms, such as:
- applying moisturiser within 3 minutes of bathing to “lock in” moisture
- moisturising every day
- wearing cotton and soft fabrics, and avoiding rough, scratchy fibres and tight-fitting clothing
- using a mild soap or a non-soap cleanser when washing
- air drying or gently patting skin dry with a towel, rather than rubbing the skin dry after bathing
- learning and avoiding individual eczema triggers
- using a humidifier in dry or cold weather
Even though the condition itself is not yet curable, there should be a particular treatment plan to suit each person with different symptoms. Even after an area of skin has healed, it is important to keep looking after it, as it may easily become irritated again.
When you get an eczema flare, your doctor or pharmacist may recommend using a steroid cream or ointment to help settle the inflammation. If you get severe eczema, you may need to use a strong steroid cream for a few days to get it under control, changing to a moderate or low-strength steroid cream for a few more days before stopping.
On the face, a mild corticosteroid cream or ointment such as hydrocortisone 0.5% or 1% is usually used.
Infected eczema needs to be treated with an antibiotic. See your doctor or pharmacy if you have any signs of a bacterial skin infection.
The first step in prevention and treatment of sensitive skin conditions such as eczema is to use a skin cleanser that maintains your skin’s natural moisture