Just when I think I have it all under control, something throws a bump in the road at me. Isn’t that a metaphor of life, though, and we just figure it out and go over it – hoping the road stays smooth for at least a little while?
Well, in this allergy/skin case, it’s eczema. Every winter we struggle with it and I was so proud we’ve seem to have it together this year. I’ve been lotioning my girls, the humidifiers are up and running, no one’s complaining of itchy skin or waking up in the night scratching.
However…I noticed over the past few days my older daughter’s upper eyelid has been puffy. The skin was looking dryer and dryer, getting red and flaky. I was wary of what to put on it as not only the skin on the eye is so delicate, but also because of the eye itself. The last thing I wanted was to get something harmful in her eye or make the tender skin worse.
So off the the doctor we went and diagnosis – medium degree eczema. We caught it before it got too bad, but we definitely needed to treat it and her were her recommendations:
At night, Aquaphor ointment. This is an ointment that is fairly greasy (sort of like Vaseline but thicker). It really helps quickly. Be careful applying as a little goes a long way. My daughter did say it stung just a little, but results are already there. Next is Cetaphil cream during the day. Even if we think it’s all better, the doctor told us to keep using the cream. Because of the fast working Aquaphor, it can look better and then as soon as she goes back into the cold, dry air – all the moisture gets sucked back out. So each morning it’s Cetaphil than Aquaphor at night. Because it’s not “medicine” we can reapply as needed.
The next thing would be, and only if it worsens instead of getting better, would be the tiniest bit of Hydrocortisone cream. I’m wary of putting this so close to the eye, but she said it’s alright to use there. However, the smallest amount must be used as it tends to thin the skin and eyelid skin is already so thing and delicate. Hopefully we’ll get it better and won’t need to go that route.
It’s probably not a bad idea to use the Aquaphor on any part of the skin that seems extra dry or itchy during the winter – it really does form a good barrier. And I’d much rather protect than treat!
Eczema can actually be prevented fairly easy, but requires maintenance, and once it starts, a cycle begins of itching and scratching and then the condition worsens. There are actually a few different skin conditions that fall under the category of eczema, but the bottom line is that it is a very uncomfortable condition to have, and here is what we can do to prevent it.
• Moisturize your skin consistently (some highly recommended brands of lotions and creams are Aveeno, Eucerin and Cetaphil)
• Keep hand lotion in your car or purse so you can moisturize throughout the day if eczema is a problem on your hands.
• Use a gentle soap without fragrance in the shower or bath and use cool to warm water, not hot.
• Apply moisturizer within just a few minutes of getting out of the shower or bath, that way the moisturizer seals in the water from bathing.
• Wear gloves while doing dishes or anything else that keeps your hands in water for large amounts of time.
• Use a humidifier in your house, especially your bedroom. Having heat on in the winter is very drying to the skin and extra moisture in the air is good.
• Drink a lot of water; keep your body moisturized from within and it will help.
• If nighttime scratching is a problem, you may want to try sleeping with gloves (or socks) on your hands. You can also try taking some Benadryl to help control the itching.
• Take hot showers or baths.
• Bathe daily. Try to go to an every day bathing schedule or even less. It’s winter time and we don’t need to bathe quite as much.
• Smoke! The smoke is horrible for your hands and face and really dries the skin.
• Use anything with added fragrances, like soap or laundry detergent.
• Expose your skin to very hot or very cold air. If you do, slather on the moisturizer afterwards.
• Scratch! It only makes things worse and prolongs the eczema. It also can lead to infection if you break the skin. You may want to keep your nails short so that you have a less chance of doing so, and make sure your hands are always clean so you don’t worsen the condition by accidentally scratching with dirty fingernails.
You do want to try and keep any eczema under control. It is difficult with the dry, cold air, but not only is the condition uncomfortable and even unsightly, but it also makes the skin susceptible to other conditions like molluscum or the aforementioned infection. The two keys to controlling eczema are do moisturize and don’t itch! If you continue to follow these tips with no relief, see your doctor. He or she may be able to provide something more to help you keep your eczema under control.