“Eczema is the worst.” That’s a statement you’ll often hear people with eczema say, and maybe you’ve said it yourself. The dry, flaky, itchy, red skin disease that develops bumps or papules on the affected area is certainly no fun at all.
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Eczema symptoms may improve for some people during the warmer months, but some people will continue to suffer throughout the summer and the hot weather can sometimes cause additional irritation. When it’s hot and your skin is exposed to the sun, and even additional exposure to water, this can cause your skin to dry out more and trigger an eczema flare up. When you sweat, your sweat is actually salty and that also pulls additional moisture from the skin causing it to dry out.
The best eczema skin care plan in the summer is to bathe in lukewarm water and avoid hot water. Hot water may feel good at first, but the heat can instigate a histamine release and cause more itching afterwards. Your bath or shower time should only be 5-10 minutes long. It’s best to use a very mild, fragrance free moisturizing soap. Bathing and cleaning with a good soap is very important because it will help to prevent the irritation from spreading. Avoid antibacterial soaps or any soap with a strong smell as these will dry the skin out.
If your skin is already irritated, add baking soda to your bath water. It’s very soothing. Soaps that include an oatmeal-base are also a good choice.
Moisturizing after bathing is important to help replace any moisture that was lost. Try to moisturize within three minutes of bathing. Pat your skin dry (avoid rubbing) and apply moisturizer before your skin has time to dry out. There are really 3 types of moisturizers: creams, lotions, and ointments. Ointments hydrate the skin and prevent water loss. The most common and inexpensive ointment is petroleum jelly. You’ll find that petroleum jelly is greasy on your skin and that might take some getting used to. The greasiness is actually a good thing as the jelly doesn’t contain any water and will act as a balm without drying your skin out.
Creams and lotions aren’t as greasy as ointments, and lotions are thinner than creams. Watch out for using creams when the skin has already flared up because they contain water or alcohol which can be more irritating. The creams are good if you aren’t having a flare up, but if you skin is already irritated, an ointment is better. Creams might also contain allergens that can be irritating so watch out and find something that works for you.
Lotions are mixtures of water and oil and the water is the main ingredient. Lotions aren’t ideal for people with eczema; they do not work as well. When the water evaporates, the skin dries out. If your eczema is mild, a lotion may work well enough, but if you have a more serious case of eczema, stick to a good cream and especially soothing ointments.
Keeping sweat and moisture away from your skin is a good way to prevent irritation. Wearing cotton clothing that’s moisture wicking is also a good idea in hot weather. Always wash your clothing before you wear it and use fragrance free detergents. If you’re having a hard time finding a detergent that doesn’t irritate you, consider switching to an organic version and double rinsing your clothing.
If your eczema persists, you might need a form of drug therapy. Antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) can be very effective. Watch out for any drowsy effects. If Benadryl doesn’t work for you, consult your doctor, or better yet a dermatologist. You might need a prescription antihistamine. A topical corticosteroid or phototherapy might also be necessary for people who are still suffering despite use of moisturizers and antihistamines. Topical steroids are the go-to choice for persistent eczema. Topical steroids are safe if they are used appropriately under the care of a healthcare provider.
Take care of your skin. Hopefully with the right attention you’ll be able to enjoy an eczema-free season and enjoy the warm weather!