The key to staying healthy while living with eczema is to keep symptoms under control. That’s why it’s good to know about the everyday “triggers” in your surroundings — like dry skin, irritants, allergens and stress — that might make you or your child’s eczema flare up, or get worse.
In many cases eczema is manageable, especially with a proper skin care routine. This includes bathing and moisturizing daily, sometimes in combination with prescription medications and/or alternative therapies.
Some basic things you can do to help control eczema:
- Establish a daily skin care routine — just like you would for other activities such as brushing your teeth. Try not to miss treatments, but be flexible if your symptoms change.
- Recognize stressful situations and events — and learn to avoid or cope with them by using techniques for stress management. You may do this on your own, or with the help of your doctor or psychologist.
- Be mindful of scratching and rubbing — and limit contact with materials or substances that may irritate your skin. Dress in soft, breathable clothing and avoid itchy fabrics like wool, that can further irritate your eczema.
What treatments and medications are available for eczema?
There are many different treatments that people who live with eczema can use to relieve symptoms.
- Over-the-counter remedies such as gentle, non-soap cleansers, petroleum jelly, tar-based products and mineral oil
- Medications available only with a prescription from a doctor, such as topical corticosteroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs) and systemic oral drugs
- Phototherapy, which exposes the affected area to light under medical supervision
- Complementary and alternative therapies, including acupuncture, supplements and stress reduction techniques
Remember that eczema symptoms can be different for everyone. Not everyone will respond to a treatment in the same way, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with all of the options and talk to your doctor to find a treatment regimen that works for you.
Common eczema treatments
Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments are products or medications you can buy without a prescription. Some OTC eczema treatments are used for moisturizing skin; some are used to help skin symptoms such as rash, redness and itch; and some are for gently cleaning skin to prevent infection.
Explore OTC products that earned the NEA Seal of Acceptance.
The most effective way to treat dry skin is to give it the moisture it needs through proper bathing and moisturizing. Soak in a warm bath or take a shower and then moisturize immediately afterward (within three minutes). You can help calm specific symptoms of eczema by adding bleach, vinegar, salt, oatmeal or baking soda to your bath water.
Learn more about bathing as a treatment for eczema.
When your skin gets too dry, it can become irritated and cause your eczema to flare. Wind, low humidity, cold temperatures, harsh soaps and too much washing without the use of a moisturizer immediately after, all can lead to dry skin.
Bathing and properly moisturizing are two of the most important things you can do to help control your condition. It’s important to understand how and when to properly moisturize, and which products are best to use when you have eczema.
Learn more about moisturizing as a treatment for eczema.
Prescription topical medications include corticosteroids (steroids) and topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs). Available through your doctor, these medications are applied to the affected area of the skin to help ease redness, rash and itching.
Learn more about prescription topicals as a treatment for eczema.
In phototherapy, a special machine is used to emit narrowband ultraviolet B (UVB) light onto the skin in order to help reduce itching and inflammation, increase vitamin D production and bacteria-fighting systems in the skin.
Learn more about phototherapy as a treatment for eczema.
The root cause of atopic dermatitis is still not fully known. However, it is known that the immune system goes haywire and causes inflammation in the skin. This inflammation can cause some symptoms of atopic dermatitis such as itching and redness. For moderate to severe cases of atopic dermatitis, your doctor may prescribe a systemic medication to stop your immune system from overreacting.
Learn more about systemics as a treatment for eczema.
Biologic drugs or "biologics" take an “inside out” approach by treating atopic dermatitis internally. They contain genetically engineered proteins derived from human genes and are administered intravenously (through the vein) as infusions to target specific parts of the immune system that trigger inflammation.
Learn more about biologics as a treatment for eczema.
Complementary and alternative therapies
Studies have shown that certain complementary and alternative therapies can be beneficial in controlling the symptoms of eczema. These include some supplements, plant-based topicals such as coconut oils, meditation and biofeedback.
Learn more about complementary and alternative treatments for eczema.