How to Get Rid of Eczema
Eczema is a chronic dry skin condition that affects many of us living in the UK and can have many different causes.
Though there are several different types of eczema, atopic is by far the most common form. This causes the skin to become dry, itchy and cracked, particularly around natural folds such as the hands, elbows and knees.
The term atopic refers to the fact that the condition is inherited from a parent and so is not contagious. The constant itching can affect the quality of day-to-day life and it can be time-consuming trying to avoid all of the soaps, detergents, perfumes and other irritants which can trigger flare-ups.
However, there are dietary and environmental changes that can help to bring eczema under control and prevent flare-ups.
Who Is Affected by Eczema?
Eczema affects males and females equally but is more prevalent in children and young adults. It is estimated that 1 in 5 children in the UK suffer from eczema, and that in 65% of these cases symptoms clear up before the age of 16. However, for some eczema can be a life long battle, with 1 in 12 adults still suffering from the condition.
Triggers and Causes of Eczema
- Common cold or flu
- High-stress levels
- Allergies to dust, pollen or other substances
- Environmental irritants
- Sudden environmental changes
- Sudden changes in body temperature
- Some soaps and detergents
- Certain foods, commonly milk, eggs, wheat and peanuts.
- Household chemicals
- Too much sugar in the diet
What Can I Do?
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for eczema, however, there are preventative steps you can take to limit the appearance of symptoms. Try to identify what triggers flare-ups and avoid them as much as possible. If this is unsuccessful, ask your doctor for an allergy test which will help you to avoid triggers and potential flare-ups. You could also keep a diary recording symptom flare-ups.
Home Remedies for Eczema
If you're confused about how to get rid of eczema, try these simple diet, lifestyle and skin care changes to help find some relief.
- Avoid processed foods and refined sugars – Preservatives, chemicals, artificial flavourings, and sweeteners are common irritants, which can result in skin outbreaks, digestive issues and weakened immunity.
- Work out what food aggravates your condition - Common triggers include cows milk, eggs, soya, wheat, fish and nuts. Try eliminating these to see if symptoms improve.
- Drink plenty of water - Drinking eight glasses of water per day will help to hydrate your cells, keep the moisture locked in, and keep the environmental toxins out.
- Do moderate exercise on a regular basis – Exercise is important to manage stress, which is a common trigger for eczema. However, it can be challenging to exercise without exacerbating eczema as sweat often dehydrates and irritates eczema-prone skin. Make sure you drink plenty of water and carefully consider your clothing. Opt for light, breathable cotton fabrics that don't rub against the skin.
- Get lots of sleep – Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep per night to allow the body and skin to heal. If itchy and flaring skin is disrupting your sleep, try an antihistamine or a sedative herb before bed.
- Moisturise after swimming - If you swim on a regular basis, apply a thick layer of emollient before and after to help the skin retain moisture and reduce irritation from chlorine.
- Take short, warm showers or baths – Hot and cold temperatures can trigger outbreaks and further dry out the skin. Opt for short-warm showers and pat your skin dry gently with a towel, don't rub it.
- Change your shampoo and soaps - Try to avoid products containing parabens, perfumes and alcohol which can irritate the skin. Instead, opt for a gentle, fragrance-free skincare routine to leave the skins protective barrier intact.
- Don't scratch – Although itching can feel unbearable at times, it's important not to scratch the skin as this will break the surface and increase the risk of infection. Moisture the area or use a cold compress to soothe the skin.
- Wear clothing made of natural fibres - Light cotton fibres allow the skin to breathe and reduce the risk of irritation. Try to avoid wearing itchy wools or synthetic fibres.
- Omega 3 Fish Oils - The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil supplements may also help to alleviate eczema. The fatty acids EPA and DHA can help to reduce inflammation by inhibiting the production of hormone-like chemicals known as prostaglandins.
- Evening Primrose Oil – The oil extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose plant is rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which is well known to soothe skin inflammation and swelling. Studies suggest that evening primrose supplements may also help to reduce redness, scaling and itching associated with eczema.
- Probiotics – Probiotic supplements contain live cultures that help to promote healthy digestion and strengthen the immune system. Findings from clinical trials suggest that probiotics may be effective at preventing flare-ups, particularly in children.