Understanding and Managing Eczema

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition that affects 2 to 7% of the population and often first appears in early childhood¹. Although eczema isn’t contagious, the inflamed and itchy skin can be very uncomfortable for children and adults alike.

Because it affects everyone in different ways, eczema is not easy to treat and should involve the expertise of a qualified practitioner but understanding and managing symptoms may be helpful to relieve general discomfort while you get to the bottom of any flare ups.

What Is Eczema?

The increased amount of histamine and other allergic compounds that are released in eczema patients result in this inflammation and itching and if there is compromised immunity coupled with continual itching and scratching, this can then lead to the predominance of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus in the skin flora in 90% of eczema patients — this can then cause severe infections of the skin².

Causes of Eczema

Many eczema patients also develop hay fever and/or asthma, which may be associated with a type of hypersensitivity reaction from the immune system¹.

Triggers of Eczema

It is more common to get eczema, though, if you have a family history of eczema and/or allergies such as hay fever and asthma.

Some triggers may include:

  • Environmental irritants
  • Heat or change in weather where skin may be irritated or more dry
  • Food allergies — although this is rare and will often flare up immediately around the lips and mouth³ ⁴
  • Emotional stress — although this doesn’t cause eczema, it may provoke symptoms

Symptoms of Eczema

Symptoms of eczema can include:

  • Dry and flaking skin
  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Weeping skin
  • Lesions (sores)² ⁵

8 Ways To Help Manage Eczema

In some severe cases doctors may prescribe corticosteroid creams, but let’s take a look at some natural and lifestyle options that can be tried to alleviate symptoms associated with eczema.

1. Avoid Skin Irritants

As with most health conditions, there is little we can do when genetics are involved, but we can try to be mindful of what we come into contact with on a daily basis.

It is important to avoid skin irritants, such as detergents or cosmetics, and consider the fabrics and other items that might come into close proximity to the skin.

Here are some of my suggestions for reducing skin irritation:

  • Choose hypoallergenic products
  • Avoid chemical perfumes, fragranced skin lotions, and strongly scented shampoos and skincare products⁶
  • Remove clothing labels and wear loose-fitting 100% cotton, or other soft, smooth materials next to your skin. Avoid scratchy materials, such as pure wool, polyester or acrylic
  • Wear protective gloves, with cotton liners, when using chemicals or detergents
  • Avoid chlorinated pools especially if you cannot, moisturise your skin when you get out

If you are trying a new cosmetic or skincare product for the first time, consider testing a small amount on the inner forearm to test for adverse reactions before applying the product more substantially.

2. Bathing and Showering

Although hot showers can further dry out the skin, bathing (and showering) in lukewarm water can be soothing and may help reduce itching, redness, and scaliness.

You may like to try adding oatmeal, goat’s milk, or Kunzea Bath Salts to the water and, when finished, gently pat the skin dry with a soft towel to avoid further irritation.

Applying a moisturiser, such as Original Kunzea Cream, within three minutes of bathing will also help to “lock in” the moisture. Ensure the skin is thoroughly dry before application.

Oatmeal Bath: To prepare an oat bath, get an old stocking and fill with oatmeal. Tie the open end of stocking around the tap nozzle and allow warm water to run through the stocking filled with oats which will give a milky consistency to the bath water. Soak for 15–20 minutes. Please take caution if you are allergic to gluten or oats.

3. Digestive Health

A good probiotic is essential for gut health and certain strains are now thought to help eczema specifically¹⁴. A condition called “leaky gut” means that increased gut permeability can lead to allergies, as well as compromising immunity, which may increase the chances of an eczema flare up for those prone to it.

It is advisable to see a health practitioner or go to a reputable health store and source the most appropriate probiotic for your age and lifestyle.

4. Moisturisers and Anti-Inflammatory Ointments

As eczema-prone skin is more prone to inflammation when it becomes rough and itchy, moisturising regularly — especially when the weather is particularly dry — may support skin from getting too dry⁸.

If you live or work in an air-conditioned or heated environment, you may need to apply extra moisturiser throughout the day to ensure your skin stays moist.

In addition, eczema may respond to anti-inflammatory creams and balms. They can come in various strengths, but it is best to use the lowest strength that works adequately for you.

At Zea, we have developed our Kunzea Balm as both a moisturiser and an anti-inflammatory ointment for inflammatory skin conditions. It may help in the management of eczema, dry skin and redness.

For a double strength option, you may like to try Kunzea Cream.

5. Diet

Although there is little proof that food can trigger eczema flare ups, it has been found that around a third of people who experience eczema also may have food allergies or sensitivities, or may find that certain foods can further inflame the skin after an outbreak.⁹ ¹⁰ ¹¹

Common food allergens include milk, eggs, peanuts and — to a lesser degree — wheat, citrus, and chocolate⁵. If you suspect a food allergy, it may be worth trying an elimination diet and seeing a dietician or medical professional for proper allergy testing and nutritional advice to eliminate this possibility.³ ⁷

Green Tea: Reducing excess histamine release is important and flavonoids are a natural way of doing this. Certain supplements may help as may drinking large amounts of green tea³. In a month-long study in Japan, people who drank 3 cups of green tea daily felt relief from their itching in just one week. ³ ⁷

6. Diffusing Essential Oils

Diffusing essential oils may not directly help in easing the itch and inflammation of eczema, but may help with managing unhealthy stress, which can precede a flare up⁸. You may also find aromatherapy, massage, mediation, and bath soaks helpful to ease tension, but it’s important to find ways that work for you to relax.

In addition, some aroma diffusers may have the dual-benefit of also being a humidifier. The ultrasonic waves create air moisture to combat the drying effects of heating and air-conditioning.

Using a humidifier while you sleep will help to moisten the air in your bedroom and can be ideal, even in warmer climates⁴.

7. Manage Temperature Control

There isn’t much we can do about the changing weather, or even working in temperature controlled environments, but avoiding (or managing) abrupt changes in temperature and humidity, where possible, can support the skin better.

At home, try not to overuse the heater in winter and the air conditioner in summer. Cracking a window or using a humidifier — especially overnight — can help balance artificially acclimatised spaces.

In cooler months, dress warmly when leaving the house and remove layers as you go back inside. When the weather is hot, avoid physical activity that can make you sweat heavily and overheat the skin³.

8. Find Out What Works For You

Eczema is a very common complaint in people of all ages but the onset, symptoms, location of flare ups, and what works is also different for each person. To feel empowered managing your eczema, it’s important to find what works for you.

Keep track of your eczema flare ups in the hope of learning your eczema triggers and what helps alleviate your symptoms.

Some other suggestions you might like to try:

  • Have an allergy test for common environmental allergens (such as dust mites, grass pollens and moulds) to see if it may be a trigger;
  • Keep fingernails short to prevent damage to skin from scratching;
  • Try not to scratch or scrub skin too hard when washing⁶;
  • Develop daily skincare routines
  • Swim in the sea in warm weather whenever you can — salt water is known to reduce the symptoms of eczema³

Everyone is unique so what might work for you, may not work for someone else.

Love The Skin You’re In

Manage what you can, take care of the skin and avoid known irritants, finding what works for you and what potentially causes your symptoms. But it’s also essential to learn to love the skin you’re in so true healing can begin.

About the Author — Michelle Brass ND

To learn more about Michelle, go to her full bio page.

Medical Disclaimer

All content by Australian Kunzea Pty Ltd, including, text, images, audio, or other formats, were created for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. To read our full medical disclaimer, click here.

References

  1. Murray M & Pizzorno J. Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine. Atria Books, 3rd ed. 2012.
  2. Better Health. Eczema Atopic Dermatitis. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/eczema-atopic-dermatitis. Accessed 4 October 2020.
  3. WebMD. How To Live Better WIth Eczema https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/live-better-eczema. Accessed 4 October 2020.
  4. Curtis S, Fraser R & Kohler I. Neal’s Yard Natural Remedies. Penguin Books. 1988.
  5. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Skin Care at Home. https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/eczema-treatment Accessed 4 October 2020.
  6. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. “Eczema: Can eliminating particular foods help?”. Informed Health Online. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424900. Accessed 4 October 2020.
  7. Eczema Association Australia. How To Manage Eczema. https://www.eczema.org.au/managing-eczema. Accessed 4 October 2020.
  8. Informed Health. Eczema: Can eliminating particular foods help? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424896/#:~:text=Many%20people%20try%20to%20relieve,in%20the%20development%20of%20eczema. Accessed 6 October 2020.
  9. WebMD. Diet and Eczema: The Facts. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/treatment-16/eczema-diet. Accessed 6 October 2020.
  10. Young M. Elimination Diets in Eczema — A Cautionary Tale https://www.jaci-inpractice.org/article/S2213-2198(15)00573-5/fulltext. Accessed 6 October 2020.
  11. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Managing Eczema In Winter and Year-Round: A Parent’s Guide. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/articles/managing-eczema-in-winter-and-year-round-a-parents-guide. Accessed 4 October 2020.
  12. Chidwick K, Busingye D, et al. Prevalence, Incidence and Management of Atopic Dermatitis in Australian General Practise Using Routinely Collected Data From MedicineInsight. Australiasian Journal of Dermatology. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/ajd.13268? Access 4 October 2020.
  13. National Eczema Association. Probiotics: The Search for Bacterial Balance. https://nationaleczema.org/search-bacterial-balance. Accessed 6 October 2020.

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