Easing the pain of eczema
I’ve recently begun to get a rash on my arms. My mother suffered from eczema and I’m afraid I might have inherited the disease. I haven’t been to the doctor yet. Is there any change I could make to my diet to make the problem go away?
Atopic eczema is one of the most common skin ailments in Ireland, affecting nearly one in five children and between 2% and 10% if adults.
It does tend to run in families although the exact cause is unknown.
The first thing you should do is visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Most eczema sufferers have certain triggers that cause a flare-up. Food allergies are often blamed and many sufferers are advised to remove wheat, dairy and yeast from their diets.
However, unless there is a clear link between certain food and your symptoms, diets like these have little benefit.
The root problem with eczema is dryness. Extreme heat and cold can also cause flare-ups, as can certain fibres like polyester or wool. Pets or certain perfumes can also become a factor.
Emollients are the main treatment for the problem – there is a huge range available. An adult sufferer needs, on average, 400g emollient a week, which should be applied frequently.
Sufferer’s bedrooms should be kept cool and bedsheets changed regularly. I also recommend daily baths to improve moisture in the skin. But the correct bathing products must be used and the skin should be patted dry and emollient applied while it is still damp.
Steroids are often necessary to contain eczema flare-ups – your doctor will advise you on the correct dosage. Some people swear by Chinese herbal remedies, but many of these contain powerful oral steroids, which should be avoided.
Sometimes a sedating antihistamine can be taken at night to ease the itch and allow more comfortable sleep.