Controlling Eczema without Topical Steroids.
Eczema is a skin allergy that has intense itching. It usually starts in the first 6 months of life and can continue into adulthood. 10-20% of the general population suffer from eczema but rates are rising. Below is a graph of skin allergy rates.
The most common form of treatment for eczema is a prescription for topical steroids or corticosteroids in the form of ointments or creams.
Although this is the most common form of treatment, you may want to consider other effective treatments before using steroids especially when it’s a baby or young child. According to the International Topical Steroid Awareness Network “Topical steroids should never be used longer than two weeks. Many cases of eczema can be resolved without topical steroids through dietary changes or environmental changes (such as avoiding certain allergens or changing your washing machine detergent). Steroids should be used as a last resort, and always starting with a lower strength. The side effects of topical steroids are not well-documented because topical steroids were developed before thorough research and testing controls were established.” Please visit the International Topical Steroid Awareness Network at http://www.itsan.org for more information.
Below are some tips to try to limit topical steroids or managing eczema without the use of topical steroids.
Irritants can trigger eczema or aggravate existing eczema and make it worse. Discovering what triggers your eczema can help you manage eczema and greatly minimize the symptoms. Irritants are different for everyone but avoiding know eczema irritants can minimize symptoms and make it easier to manage eczema. Some common irritants or eczema triggers are common household cleaning products, laundry detergents, soaps, perfumes, wool and synthetic clothing. Certain foods such as milk, eggs, nuts, wheat, and soy could be irritating your eczema and an elimination diet can help you find out which food group is the culprit. There are also environmental allergens that can irritate you eczema such as temperature and humidity. Along with heat - sweat can really aggravate eczema. Dust mites is a irritant. Pet dander is also a common irritant. You also may want to consider pollen. Are you feeling overwhelmed, please don’t. The more you experiment with the above list, the more you will know about your eczema and how to manage it. Here are some tips below.
Choose a FREE and CLEAR laundry detergent and use the extra rinse cycle when washing clothes. The National Eczema Association recommends All Free and Clear laundry detergent (http://www.all-laundry.com/#filter=.freeclear).
Clothing: Choose natural fiber clothing such as Tencel®/lyocell. Tencel®/lyocell is proven through verifiable testing to be superior for eczema and sensitive skin. Read what the National Eczema Association has to say about Tencel®lyocell (http://nationaleczema.org/eczema-products/clothing-fabrics/ad-rescuewear/). Cotton is another fiber recommended for people with eczema. Avoid synthetic fabric or fibers because they don’t allow your skin to breath, thus sweat builds up and can really aggravate eczema. Some people claim the salt in the sweat aggravates eczema. Basically breathable, natural fibers are best for eczema. Tencel®lyocell is thermo-regulating which is another reason why it’s superior for eczema.
Body Soap and Perfume:
Be careful of the chemicals you come in contact with as they can trigger your eczema. Use a body wash or shower gel approved by the National Eczema Association. Kiss of Nature is a wonderful company and their soaps are approved by the National Eczema Association (http://nationaleczema.org/eczema-products/cleansers/kiss-nature/).
As far as perfumes or colognes, it’s best to just avoid fragrances or sprays. If you insist, visit your local health food store for an all-natural fragrance such as http://www.pacificaperfume.com.
Food Allergies: Regarding foods, you may want to try to avoid milk, eggs, nuts, wheat (gluten), and soy. These are all common allergy-causing or eczema irritating foods. Before you feel overwhelmed, realize this will be a wonderful learning experience that will help your eczema in the end. Keep in mind you need to eliminate each food group separately with ample time in between. You may not see a difference with eggs but then wheat/gluten may be a life changing experience as far as managing your eczema. You won’t know until you try. Here is a great article from WebMD on eliminating food groups (http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/allergies-elimination-diet).
Environmental Allergens Environmental allergens such as pollen and pet dander can really wreak havoc on eczema. If you notice your eczema is worse during allergy season, an environmental allergen might be irritating your eczema. If you feel itchy after being outside, immediately rinse off in a lukewarm shower or bath and immediately apply an emollient like Vaniply. (http://www.dermstore.com/product_Vaniply+Ointment+_32729.htm)
This is pretty straight forward. Do dogs or cats cause you to itch or break out in hives? It’s best to avoid them if that is the case.
Many people with eczema are allergic to house dust mite. Minimizing dust in your house can really improve your eczema. Dust collecting items such as stuffed animals should be washed regularly. Carpet should be vacuumed regularly, especially the bedroom. Consider dust mite encasements on bedding to minimize itching at night from dust mites. Mission: Allergy is a wonderful resource for minimizing dust mites in the home. They have a great video on their website. http://www.missionallergy.com
Soak and Seal
Soak and Seal is a universal term used for eczema management. It was mentioned above and is one of the most important tools in managing eczema. If you are suffering from eczema you should soak and seal at least once a day. Soak and Seal is just what the name implies. Soak in a lukewarm tub or shower for at least 10 minutes. Pat dry with a clean towel. Do not rub dry as this will aggravate your eczema. Immediately apply a moisturizer or emollient like Vaniply or Vanicream.
Why is the Soak and Seal so important? The Soak plumps up the skin with moisture from the tub or shower so your skin is full of water. The Seal seals in the moisture and protects it so your dry eczema can repair. This step in eczema management is so simple yet so very important. But keep in mind your soap. Don’t use an irritating soap. This will derail the Soak and Seal.
Wet Wrap Therapy
Wet Wrap Therapy has been proven to heal the skin barrier and calm the itch in stubborn eczema. Recent studies say it minimizes symptoms by 75% and results lasted well beyond two weeks of treatment. It also greatly minimizes the need for topical steroids. Don’t get turned off by the word Wet. It’s an easy process. You just apply damp specialty medical garments over your Soak and Seal. You can use regular cotton clothing but this can be an uncomfortable experience. The Wet Wrap Therapy Garments make the experience very comfortable and effective.
It’s worth the money to purchase the right tools. AD RescueWear sells specialty medical garments for Wet Wrap Therapy. They are also great worn dry over creams and emollients. www.ADRescueWear.com.