A survey by Allergy UK found that 58% of adults living with eczema say the condition affects their personal relationships, 73% state their social life suffers and a huge 88% say eczema has an impact on their daily lives.
That’s why, during this Eczema Awareness Month, we are providing an all-in-one guide to understanding, treating and travelling with eczema – to improve the well-being of anyone living with the skin condition, and to help us all better appreciate its effect.
What is Eczema?
Atopic eczema is the most common form of the condition, which causes skin to become itchy, red, dry and / or cracked. This type of eczema often develops in people who have allergies; “Atopic” simply means sensitive to allergens.
People with eczema typically have overly reactive – and inflammatory – responses to allergies. Environmental factors which can cause inflammation also include contact with soaps, detergents and chemicals generally applied to the skin, plus infections.
Other types of eczema include:
- Discoid eczema – occurs in circular or oval patches on the skin
- Contact dermatitis – occurs when the body comes into contact with a irritable substance
- Varicose eczema – a type that is caused by problems with the flow of blood through the leg veins
- Seborrhoeic eczema – a type where red, scaly patches develop on the sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears and scalp
- Dyshidrotic eczema – causes tiny blisters to erupt across the palms of the hands
Is Eczema Hereditary?
Yes – living with eczema tends to run in the family, and it often developed alongside other medical conditions. The NHS state one in three children with eczema will also have asthma and / or hay fever. Eczema also affects both males and females equally.
What Are the Symptoms of Eczema?
The main symptom of eczema is simply an itch – but be aware, scratching itself often causes the inflammation. However, it can be hard to resist, with some itches severe enough to interfere with sleep. The dry skin which causes the itch is often made worse in winter months.
Consider the following for when seeking medical advice for eczema:
When the symptoms first began – where you exposed to any allergens or chemicals?
Does the rash come and go over time? This is typical of atopic eczema.
Is there a history of eczema in your family? Remember it can be hereditary.
Do you have any other conditions, such as allergies or asthma? They are often developed along with eczema.
Could something in your diet or lifestyle may be contributing to your symptoms? It could be the result of a food allergy.
How Can You Treat Eczema?
A doctor can prescribe steroid creams and ointments, antibiotics or antiseptics, but there are some things you can do yourself to help treat eczema…
- Moisturise your skin ideally 2-3 times each day. The most greasy, non-perfumed is often best. This is the most important part of your skin care – but avoid putting your fingers into the pot of moisturiser, as it may become contaminated and a source of infection
- Wash with a moisturiser instead of soap and also avoid shower gels, bubble baths and detergents
- Wear vinyl gloves (non-powdered and non-rubber) to protect your hands and avoid irritants when doing housework
- Avoid chlorinated water, instead make sure the water is always fresh. If swimming, rinse well and apply plenty of your moisturiser after drying
- Wear smooth clothes made of materials such as cotton and avoid wearing wool next to your skin
- 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
- Keep cool – overheating can make eczema itch more!
- Treat eczema early – the more severe it becomes, the more difficult it is to control
- Wash clothes with a non-biological washing powder and use a double rinse cycle to remove detergent residues
- Avoid air borne allergens from cats, dogs, pollen, grass or the house dust-mite. Plus look out for any food allergies and latex (rubber)
Antihistamine tablets (the same used to treat hay fever) can be helpful for some. Whilst the sleepy effect is a warning for people with hay fever, it can be a useful effect for those with an itch when used at night. Please note though, they will not reduce inflammation but are largely helpful as a sedative.
Travelling with Eczema
Using the above care – and with a bit of luck – eczema can be comfortably managed on holiday. One key packing item for your peace of mind is medical travel insurance. After all, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) have revealed a UK holidaymaker needs emergency medical treatment abroad every 3 minutes! We can help, by letting you compare up to 61 prices online to find your perfect policy.
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Do you have any tips for living and travelling with eczema? Share them in the comments!
The information in this blog post is not intended to replace professional medical advice. It is a general overview of a broad medical care topic. Blog posts are not tailored to one person’s specific medical requirements, diagnosis or treatment. If you do notice symptoms or you require medical advice, you should always consult your doctor or healthcare provider to obtain professional medical help. Read through our disclaimer for more information.