October is Eczema Awareness Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about this common skin ailment that affects approximately 5% of the U.S. adult population. If you periodically develop red, irritated, itchy patches of skin, you may have eczema. This month is the perfect time to seek treatment from a dermatologist so you can finally experience relief.
Your dermatologist may prescribe medications like corticosteroid creams to apply to your eczema breakouts. However, in addition to using these topical medications, you should also take steps to reduce the frequency and severity of your eczema flare-ups. Here are four such preventative strategies that often work for patients.
Use Fragrance-Free Products
Scented products are not the cause of eczema. However, they do tend to trigger flare-ups in many eczema patients. The fragrant ingredients added to make products smell appealing are often irritating to the skin, and what starts as mild irritation can quickly develop into full-blown patches of itchiness and swelling.
When shopping for soaps, shampoos, makeup, moisturizers and anything else that will go on your skin, always look for a version that is specifically labeled "fragrance-free." The label "unscented" does not mean the same thing. An unscented product may be one with a scent that has been masked by additional ingredients, whereas a fragrance-free one truly is devoid of all irritating fragrance ingredients.
Take Cool Showers
Hot water can trigger eczema breakouts in several ways. First, the heat dries out the skin, breaking down its protective barrier and increasing the likelihood of irritation when you come into contact with environmental irritants and certain ingredients in cosmetics. Second, the hot water may cause your immune system to kick into high gear, leading to a breakout.
Even though hot showers may be enjoyable in the moment, cooler ones really are better for your eczema. You don't have to turn the temperature down so low that you feel chilled; just aim for water that feels room temperature.
Change Your Laundry Routine
You spend most of your hours with clothing and linens resting on your skin, so it is vital that they do not trigger eczema flare-ups. Switching to a fragrance-free laundry detergent is a good first step towards making your laundry routine more eczema-friendly. Here are a few other changes you can make:
- Always rinse your clothing twice to ensure all soap and contaminants are removed.
- Skip using fabric softener.
- Wash your clothing in hot water in order to kill dust mites, which can cause breakouts in some eczema sufferers.
Some people prefer to wash their clothing in white vinegar rather than using a fragrance-free detergent. This is really a matter of personal preference. Do make sure that you wash your clothing after every use and launder your sheets often to remove dust mites, mold spores, environmental allergens and other possible eczema triggers.
Consider Immunosuppressant Drugs
If you are adhering to the above strategies and are still suffering from serious eczema breakouts, your dermatologist may prescribe an oral immunosuppressant medication to reduce the frequency of breakouts. Researchers surmise that eczema is caused by an over-reactive immune system, and so these medications can moderate the immune reaction and curtail breakouts.
Common immunosuppressant drugs used to treat eczema include cyclosporine, methotrexate and mycophenolate mofetil. Each medication has its benefits and side effects, and your dermatologist will review your medical history to determine which is the best choice for you. Usually, you will only need to take the drug for a few months until your symptoms are under control.
If you are suffering from symptoms that you believe are due to undiagnosed eczema, or if you have been diagnosed but are having trouble controlling your breakouts, contact Azalea Skin Treatment Center today. Our doctors will evaluate your condition and help you explore the best treatment options.