Here are my top ten tips to help keep eczema flare-ups at a minimum –
1. Avoid Hot Showers
This is a hard one to follow if you are a long-term eczema sufferer but if you can beat the mental games, then this will do wonders for your skin! It has been known that people with eczema and dermatitis love hot showers and can even be addicted to them. This is because the nerve endings can feel something other than itching or pain for a while. It almost feels like a massage and will subdue the itch for a short period after, leaving you feeling relaxed but this is where the vicious circle starts.
Them hot showers that you love so dearly will actually dry out your skin and eventually make the itching worse. The damage caused by the hot water is not worth the 5 minutes of pleasure. Luke warm water will do the trick but you will notice huge improvements if you limit your bathing time to quick, short, ice cold showers. Not only does this protect the skin better but also keeps the moisture in.
Water filters for your shower head will also help keep impurities out of the skin.
2. Avoid Harsh Soaps
Choosing the right body wash or soap is especially important for people with eczema. Avoid all soaps with fragrances and especially antibacterial soaps, as most of them contain alcohol and will actually dry out the skin. While the soap is on your body avoid scrubbing too hard, as this irritates the broken/dry skin and the cycle starts again.
There are a good over-the-counter body washes that are made for people with dry skin and eczema but unfortunately this is a trial and error process with your own body. Not all will work with your skin but there will be one or two out there that will feel right for you.
3. Moisturise Regularly
I wonder how many times people have said this to you!? We all should know how important this is but experimenting with the time of moisturising is key. As soon as you have finished bathing or showering, you need to apply your chosen moisturiser (Or prescribed emollient cream) everywhere, as there is a very short window to lock that moisture in your skin.
Don’t be scarce when applying your moisturiser, this cream can go all over your body if needed and it’s always easy to get some more.
4. Stay Hydrated
Now we have all been told to hydrate the outside of our skin a thousand times but what about the inside? Start drinking plenty of water and this will help immensely at moisturising the skin but it will take a while to show. Keep at it and the constant toilet trips do start to slow down after the first week!
You want to avoid all sugary drinks, as these can also cause a flare-up and make you itch.
Make sure if you’re not drinking bottled water, then it may be a good idea to buy a filter that will clean your tap water.
5. Avoid Certain Foods
This can be tricky, as keeping a food diary and figuring out what works with and against your body can be a long process. Every single dermatologist i have seen, has asked me to this over the years, so they know it’s important! It’s hard to notice what food caused a flare-up when you’ve eaten multiple things throughout the day. The biggest mistake here, is that people usually drop a few things out and never really know the route of the problem. You should only drop one food from that particular day at a time and if you’re still itching then replace that food with another item in your diary.
Over the years I have learnt that the biggest culprits for my body are eggs (sends my body crazy!), cheese, cows milk, citrus fruits and tomatoes.
6. Get More Nutrients
For those that have a busy schedule and not much time can find this hard at first but there are options. Juicing is great way to get some nutrients into the body quickly. You should always get some green (spinach, kale etc) in with your fruit mixes. People often look for quick remedies to heal eczema but the only way you’re going to manage it, is by making some serious life changes to your daily routine.
Avoid citrus fruits, as these may cause a flare-up!
7. Reduce Stress
I cannot stress how important this step is. Stress can cause a major eczema fare-up. Of course, reducing your stress levels will help with any part of your life and there are plenty of ways to combat this.
The tricky part is when you’re stressed about your eczema! Anxiety and stress can cause eczema to flare up, which then creates more anxiety and stress, which then leads to more eczema flare-ups. The constant itching and bad sleeps can drain you but the anxiety of eczema is rarely talked about.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with stress and you need to figure that out fast. Excessive more? Go for a run? Read? Get a massage? Listen to music or meditate? The faster you become de-stressed, the faster your skin will start to heal.
There is an article posted on this matter and how important it is to deal with the stress and anxiety of eczema. Head over to Mental Health in Eczema Sufferers for a read. Your mental health is important and a number one priority, never be afraid to speak up.
8. Improve Your Sleeping Routine
People with severe eczema will also be known as insomniacs due to the constant stress and itching driving them insane. The problem is that your skin heals the most whilst you’re sleeping, so we need a good rest. The itching can become very intense at night because your mind is not focused on anything else.
There are plenty of options out there including herbal medicine, meditating before bed, different night-time cream routine and if it becomes unbearable you should let your doctor know ASAP. Everyone is different here but your sleep is vital, so please make the change that can help your skin. It will reward you.
See Insomnia and Eczema: Get More Sleep for more information.
9. Always Carry Antihistamines
So most eczema sufferers will be taking some kind of allergy tablet to try and stop them itching. There are plenty of different types, including ones that make you drowsy which are obviously better for bedtime.
My biggest mistake here was apart from my regular morning intake, I never carried any on me. At some point, I would eat or drink something that set me off and just had to deal with it, whilst constantly thinking about going home and not enjoying my night. Then the stress levels rise: see point 7!
10. Keep Your Nails Trimmed
By keeping your fingernails short, you’ll be less likely to break the skin if you scratch. It will still happen, as it’s the hardest urge to suppress. The idea here though is to minimise the damage done at night-time whilst you’re sleeping. Some people wear gloves to avoid this but please try and stay cool, as heat is our worst enemy!
So there you have it. It’s not rocket science but most people only do three or four of things things mentioned above. If you can implement all of these steps into your daily routine, then you are giving yourself the best possible chance to start managing your skin condition. You will always be likely to have flare-ups now and then but let’s make them as few and far between as possible.