Approximately 23 percent of the world population have a form of eczema, the skin condition that causes inflammation, itching, and even blisters and hives. You may be suffering from it already. While different forms of eczema can be genetic and/or caused by environmental factors, their most distinguishing shared feature is the “unbearable” itching. Even adults may have trouble keeping themselves from scratching during a flare-up, though it results in skin infections and scarring.
Here are four tips to stop the itch and prevent your next flare-up.
1. Stay hydrated
Drinking enough water helps keep the skin healthy, but that’s just the first step. Eczema occurs most commonly in dry skin, and those with dry skin can experience itching even without eczema. Dry skin is more prone to inflammation and provides a less effective protective barrier.
To start, use a strong moisturizer at least twice a day. Eczema on hands is one of the most common symptoms, as the hands come frequently into contact with water and soap throughout the day. Apply hand cream whenever you wash your hands, and moisturize immediately after a shower or bath. If your doctor prescribes a topical steroid ointment, don’t be afraid to use it as directed.
2. Stay cool
Heat and sweat can worsen itching. Keep your skin cool by wearing breathable fabrics such as cotton, rather than tight, warm layers. Avoid wool or polyester if it irritates your skin. If your skin is already becoming inflamed and itchy, a wet compress could offer quick relief — simply wet a face towel or bandage with cool water and apply to your skin.
Staying cool is psychological as well: Studies suggest that stress can trigger eczema, which is often caused by the overactive immune attacking itself. To prevent itching before it even begins, reduce stress through exercise, relaxation, and meditation to calm both your mind and your skin.
3. Stay occupied
You may have already noticed that when you think about an itch, it never goes away on its own. After you have made sure your skin is properly moisturized, distract yourself with the more important things in life. Shift your focus to your work, interests, or friends, or simply get up and have a snack.
When you find your fingers reaching for an itch, change your immediate environment — or even your shirt, if the scratchy collar is what’s bothering you — and do something else. This also helps you manage your stress levels and prevent eczema symptoms from surfacing in the first place.
4. Stay away from triggers
In addition to the factors already mentioned, many things can contribute to eczema itch. Studies show that many people experience increased itching after eating dairy products, eggs, and foods with high sugar content, such as chocolate.
Even if you do not have a food allergy, it may be wise to reduce your intake of these types of food. Is any food really worth the itching, scratching and oozing skin that come after? Other common triggers are scented bath and body products, heavy makeup and chemical sunscreens.
Although there is unfortunately no cure for eczema, its symptoms can subside almost permanently for most adults when properly managed. Keep these tips in mind, and with relatively little effort, you may never have to deal with itching and scratching in inopportune moments again.