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Eczema Explained

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There are different types of eczema.

Atopic eczema is where there is sensitivity to allergens, similar to those as in asthma, i.e. animal fur, pollen, house dust mites and certain food additives or dairy products.

Childhood eczema can start as early as 12 weeks old and will appear primarily on the face and then on the limbs and trunk. As children mature, eczema can appear on any part of the body, the elbows and knees are mostly affected as are the neck, ankles and wrists. Often by the time a child reaches 5 years they will have outgrown eczema but the condition may return again at a later time. Understanding your condition will enable you to manage it effectively.

Often there is an association with other allergies such as asthma and hay fever. Genetic links can also predetermine this condition.

Symptoms Include :

  • dry patches of skin
  • red, itchy skin
  • scaly patches, cracks in skin
  • weeping areas of skin
  • thick areas of skin

Skin affected by eczema can become very dry and hot and extremely itchy. The presentation of eczema varies in individuals but in most cases itching is the initial symptom. It is important to prevent scratching as much as possible as skin can bleed, weep and become infected (Impetigo onset). This may also lead to thickening of the skin.

Eczema can cause your skin to become extremely itchy and dry


  • house dust mites
  • pet fur
  • pollen
  • dairy products and/or additives
  • certain man-made fabrics
  • household detergents, soap, cosmetics
  • temperature changes
  • perspiring


The most important factor in controlling eczema is to avoid the triggers in your individual condition. Where possible use enzyme free washing powders, wear cotton fabric rather than man-made, use a moisturiser and emollient creams regularly to keep skin in healthy condition.  Wear protective gloves if using washing detergent that you know may be an irritant e.g. washing up liquid.

It is advisable to keep all soft furnishings as free of house dust mites as possible as their droppings will aggravate eczema. To do this you should vacuum all carpets, mattresses, curtains, etc as often as possible but no less than once a week; ensure that there is fresh air circulating to ventilate rooms; bed linen should be washed at 60 degrees centigrade; use mattress and pillow protectors that are dust mite free. You can also put any soft toys into a freezer overnight and wash them regularly. This will kill off dust mites.

Main aim

The main aim in treatment is to control itching, inflammation and stop the condition getting worse. To do this you may have to alter the things that you do daily and possibly use certain types of medication.

In inflamed skin your doctor may prescribe Corticosteroid cream to reduce any itching, swelling and redness. The strength of creams will be in accordance with the severity of each individuals condition. Antihistamines may be given to control severe itching.

Sometimes it is essential to prescribe oral corticosteroids if eczema is acute, but these can carry undesirable side effects too.

Phototherapy ( Ultraviolet light therapy) may be used to reduce eczema and other related skin conditions.

Any treatments that involve the use of creams, oral medication, light therapy must be overseen by your GP and fully explained.

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