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Atopic Eczema

Atopic eczema is an extremely common inflammatory condition of the skin. It may start at any age but is most common in children, affecting 1 in every 5 children in the UK at some stage. We use the term ’atopic’ to describe a group of conditions which include asthma, eczema and hay fever. These conditions are linked to an increased activity of the allergy component of the immune system.

Many factors appear important for its development. These include defects in the skin barrier and abnormalities in the normal inflammatory and allergic responses. A tendency to atopic conditions often runs in families.

Eczema signs and symptoms

Atopic eczema usually starts in the first months of life but it may also develop for the first time in adulthood. The main symptom is an itch. Scratching in response to itch may cause many of the changes seen on the skin. Itch can be severe enough to interfere with sleep, causing tiredness and irritability.

Eczema self-care

Moisturise your skin as often as possible, ideally at least 2-3 times each day.

Wear gloves to protect your hands if they come into contact with irritants, such as when doing housework. Rinse well after swimming, and apply plenty of moisturiser after drying.

Wear comfortable clothes made of materials such as cotton, and avoid wearing wool next to your skin. Try to resist the temptation to scratch. It may relieve your itch briefly, but it will make your skin itchier in the long term. Smooth a moisturiser onto the itchy skin.

Avoid close contact with anyone who has an active cold sore as patients with eczema are at risk of getting a widespread cold sore infection. Do not keep pets to which there is an obvious allergy.

Keep cool. Overheating can make eczema itch more. Treat eczema early – the more severe eczema becomes, the more difficult it is to control. Many factors in a person’s environment can make eczema worse. These include:

  • Heat
  • Dust
  • Wool
  • Pets
  • Irritants, such as soap and detergents
  • Infections
  • Foods

If you are considering Eczema treatment you can see our prices for treatment and consultation.

Read more about eczema treatments.

Dr Jennifer Crawley

Consultant Dermatologist
Children & Adults

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Dr Angela Tewari

Consultant Dermatologist
Children & Adults

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Frequently Asked Questions

No, there is no cure, but there are ways of controlling it. As they age, most children with atopic eczema will see an improvement with 60% clear by teenage years. Although there continues to be dry skin and so must continue to avoid irritants such as soaps, detergents and others.
Eczema may be a serious problem for people in certain types of jobs that require contact with irritants, the catering and food industry, hair and beauty, cleaning, maintenance or healthcare work.
Consistent and regular use of medical moisturisers will help restore the skin’s barrier in children who are at risk of developing Eczema. Although Breast-feeding has been advocated for the prevention of eczema in children, however, there is no evidence of the effectiveness of this.
Similarly, there is no definite evidence that organic dairy products reduce the risk of eczema, or indeed that eating fish oil during pregnancy helps to prevent eczema in childhood. For some patients who flare-up frequently, use of a topical steroid or calcineurin inhibitor may help reduce the number of flare-ups.
Moisturise as often as possible, at least two to three times each day. The most important part of your skin care is using the most greasy, non-perfumed moisturiser possible. Smooth on the moisturiser in the same direction that your hair grows and don’t put your fingers back into the pot of moisturiser, as it will be contaminated and a source of infection.
Use a spoon or spatula to cover the skin with the moisturiser then put this separately on a saucer, plate or some kitchen roll. Wash with a soap substitute also known as a moisturiser instead of soap, avoid bubble baths, shower gel and detergent. Wear non-powdered non-rubber gloves when doing housework in order to protect your skin.
After swimming, be sure to rinse well and apply plenty of moisturisers, ensure that the shower is clean, fresh, and not chlorinated.
Wear clothes made of cotton and avoid wearing wool. Do not scratch as it will cause your skin to become itchier in the long term, instead apply a moisturiser on the itchy area.
Avoid contact with someone who has a cold sore as you are at risk of getting a widespread cold sore infection. Do not keep pets if you have an allergy and keep cool, overheating can cause your eczema to become itchier.
Be sure to treat your eczema as early as possible, the longer you leave it, the more difficult it is to control. Wash your clothes with non-biological washing powder and use a double rinse cycle to ensure detergent residue is completely gone from the clothing.
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