What is Eczema?
Atopic eczema is sometimes called ‘atopic dermatitis and if the most common form of eczema which mainly affects children. Eczema is a condition that causes the skin to become dry, itchy, red, cracked and inflamed. It is a chronic (long term) condition, although it can improve over time especially in children.
The word ‘atopic’ is used to describe a group which includes asthma, eczema, hay-fever and food allergy. These conditions are all linked to the increased activity of the allergy side of the body’s immune system.
‘Eczema’ is from the Greek word ‘to boil’ and is truly describing red, dry, itchy skin which can also weep, blister, crust, scale and thicken.
What parts of the body are affected?
- back or front of the knee
- Inside or outside of the elbows
- Around the neck
People with eczema can have times when symptoms are less noticeable as well as times when they have severe flare-ups.
What causes atopic eczema?
‘Atopic’ means sensitivity to allergens and it can run in families and often develops alongside asthma and hay fever. There are triggers such as soaps, detergents, stress and the weather. Also you may have a food allergy and this is common especially in young children.
Your skin’s protective barrier
The outside layer of your skin is the epidermis and there is a protective barrier made up of your own natural oils and water. This protective barrier, sometimes called your acid mantle, helps keep moisture inside your skin and free from infection. The problem occurs when you have been using harmful soaps or detergents which strip the protective barrier causing the skin to be ‘open’ and prone to eczema and infection. Hair Stylists are prone to atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis due to washing clients hairs and using colouring chemicals without protective gloves.
Is Atopic Eczema contagious?
Is Atopic Eczema hereditary?
Yes, it tends to run in families. Around one third of children with AE will also develop asthma and/or hay fever. AE affects both males and females equally.
What are the symptoms of atopic eczema?
The main symptom is itch and the scratching that follows can cause the changes that we see on the skin. The itch can interfere with sleep causing you to be tired and irritable. Again AE can go through phases of being severe and then clear up.
What causes AE to flare-up?
- soaps, detergents and other chemicals
- Dust, woollen clothing, pets, heat
- Being unwell e.g. common cold
- Bacterial or viral infection
- Dryness of the skin
- Teething in babies
- Food allergy
Can Atopic Eczema be cured?
No, but there are ways to control it. Usually most children with eczema will improve by 60% by their teens.
Many people who have had childhood eczema will continue to have dry skin and therefore need to continue to avoid irritants such as soaps, detergents and bubble baths.
As previously mentioned this will be hard for people in certain jobs that involve contact with known irritants such as hairdressing, catering, cleaning or hospital workers.
What can you do?
* Do not scratch – it will make it worse!
- Moisturise your skin as often as possible. At least 2-3 times each day. Steer clear of perfumed lotions or hand creams.
- Wash with a moisturising soap eg. Dove and avoid bubble baths and shower gels as these contain too much Sodium Laureate Sulphate which will dry your skin out
- Be wary of the antiseptic hand sprays as these contain alcohol and will also dry skin
- Wear gloves when cleaning or washing dishes
- Shower after swimming and apply moisturiser after drying.
- If you are a Hair Stylist then use non-powdered non-rubber gloves eg. Vinyl gloves to protect your hands
- Avoid wearing wool next to your skin, better to wear cotton
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has an active cold sore as people with eczema are at risk of getting a widespread cold sore infection
- Do not keep pets to which there is an obvious allergy
- Keep cool as overheating can make eczema itch more
- Wash clothes with a non-biological washing powder and use a double rinse cycle to remove all traces of detergent
Recommendation: JL Essential Moisture