10 Ways to Get Rid of Eczema
Eczema is a common childhood skin disease. When not properly treated, it can persist long into adulthood and serve as a constant source of distress. Most eczema sufferers try multiple medications before getting their eczema under control. However, taking certain measures can help you get rid of eczema. What are the most effective non-drug ways of getting rid of eczema? Read on to find out.
People suffering from eczema are usually sensitive to specific irritants in their immediate environment.
Usually, these irritants are light enough to be carried through the air. However, they can also stick to certain surfaces or carried around by household pets and pests.
These irritants are proteins treated by the immune system as allergens. Therefore, repeated exposure to these allergens trigger anaphylactic reactions. Besides eczema, these environmental allergens can also worsen asthma and hay fever.
One of the most common environmental allergen for people with eczema is house dust mite.
These tiny animals fed on shed human skin and thrive in damp environments. Therefore, they are mostly found in bedrooms and kitchens.
Dust mites carry at least 15 different allergens. Some of these can be found on the mites’ exoskeletons but the most potent mite allergens are digestive enzymes found in their droppings. These can persist long after the mites are eliminated.
Dust mites trigger the release of histamine in skin tissues as well as prostaglandins and leukotrienes. Therefore, they directly cause itching and swelling.
Getting rid of house dust mites requires regular cleaning of beddings, curtains, rugs, and carpets. You should also regularly ventilate rooms that are most likely to harbor these mites.
Other environmental allergens to get rid of include animal dander, mold and pollens.
Lastly, cockroaches can trigger eczema flare-up. Cockroach allergy develops rather quickly after exposure to the insect. A few hours after walking over the skin, cockroaches can cause the appearance of red, itchy skin rashes.
Food allergies are more common among people with eczema than the general population. These allergies are triggered by certain food proteins.
The hypersensitivity reactions caused by certain foods can affect the gut, the respiratory tract and the skin. Food allergies also highlight the link between the gut and the skin.
The most common food allergies among eczema sufferers are wheat/gluten allergy, milk allergy and egg allergy.
There are at least 27 different allergens in wheat including the gliadins and glutenins that make up the composite protein known as gluten.
Gluten allergy results in incomplete digestion of gluten-containing grains such as wheat and oats. This allergy increases the permeability of the gastrointestinal mucosa. This is known as leaky gut syndrome and it is worsened by aspirin and exercises.
The increased permeability of the gut mucosa leads to the leakage of undigested foods, toxins and microbes into the bloodstream.
The immune system responds to these foreign substances by releasing pro-inflammatory cytokines in different parts of the body. When this happens in the skin, it triggers eczema flare-up.
Milk allergy is a more common food allergy than wheat allergy especially among children with eczema.
It differs from lactose intolerance because its triggers are proteins and not lactose, a sugar. The most potent milk allergen is the protein, casein.
Egg allergy is another common food allergy. Both the white and yolk of egg can trigger allergic reactions.
Egg allergy may also be responsible for eczema triggered by vaccination. This is because some popular vaccines are prepared with chicken embryo and can still carry residual egg proteins.
While most children outgrow their food allergies, others never do. Therefore, if your eczema flare-ups are triggered by certain foods, the best course of action is to avoid those foods and find safer substitutes.
The gut is populated by more microbes than there are cells in the body. Most of these microbes are beneficial bacteria that keep pathogens in check.
The body needs these beneficial bacteria to make certain vitamins, digest food and prevent pathogens and toxins from overwhelming the immune system. However, when these good bacteria are wiped out, pathogens dominate and damage the gastrointestinal mucosa.
The loss of the gut microflora leads to certain diseases of the gastrointestinal tract including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Since the gut is linked to the skin through the immune system, the destruction of the healthy gut flora can also trigger eczema.
To restore the gut flora, you need to make dietary changes and take probiotics.
Dietary changes will ensure that the body is supplied with essential nutrients, eliminate food allergies and allow the gut to heal. The role of probiotics is to repopulate the gut with good bacteria.
Probiotics are live bacteria proven to help restore the microbial balance of the gastrointestinal tract. The most effective probiotics are the ones belonging to Lactobacillus and Bifodobacteria species.
To get better results with probiotics, you may include prebiotics. Prebiotics are food phytochemicals that encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Clothes can help or worsen your eczema. This is because clothes are worn next to your skin and are, therefore, always rubbing against it.
Therefore, clothes with rough fabrics can irritate the skin and worsen itching and rashes.
Besides directly irritating the skin, clothes may also contain residual chemicals used during manufacturing or washing. These chemicals may be allergens or irritants. They are slowly released onto the skin and can repeatedly trigger eczema flare-ups.
In addition, some cloth fabrics absorb and hold heat close to the skin. Studies have shown that high temperatures can worsen eczema. Furthermore, heat leads to sweating and sweat is another known eczema trigger.
The right clothes for eczema patients are those made from light, breathable fabrics. These make less contact with the skin and allow airflow to cool the skin and remove sweat.
The consensus is that cotton is the best cloth fabric for eczema patients. They are light, hypoallergenic, gentle on the skin and breathable.
Thick clothes such as wool not only irritate the skin but can accumulate air-borne allergens such as dust mites and pollen.
People living with eczema should take certain steps with clothes. First, they need to wash new clothes to remove irritants and residual chemicals. Furthermore, they should wash their clothes with hypoallergenic detergents or natural soaps.
Secondly, tags should be removed from clothes as they can rub harshly against the skin and irritate it. Lastly, wearing multiple light clothes instead of one thick, synthetic cloth is preferred even when it is cold outside.
Laundry detergents, fabric softeners and soaps are chemical products that can leave residues on the body and on clothes. Therefore, they can also be eczema triggers.
Besides the usual foaming agents, most laundry detergents also contain 2 types of additives. These are oxidizers and enzymes. Oxidizers are included to break down tough, organic stains on clothes while enzymes are added to remove stains made up of proteins, carbohydrates and lipids.
By their nature, these chemical agents are designed to break down organic compounds.
Since the skin is made of similar organic compounds such as lipids and proteins, the residual chemical left in washed clothes can irritate the skin by slowing digesting its lipids and by also releasing toxins that destroy skin cells.
Fabric softeners are just as bad for eczema. These are designed to leave a thin chemical layer on clothes to help prevent static cling while softening fabrics and leaving clothes smoother to touch. However, the leftover chemical layer can directly irritate the skin and trigger eczema.
Therefore, it is important that eczema patients find alternative washing agents. These include hypoallergenic detergents, soaps and body washes.
However, you should be careful with hypoallergenic detergents and soaps since “hypoallergenic” is not a strictly regulated standard and is quickly becoming a marketing term that manufacturers use to describe mild variants of their products.
Organic soaps are alternatives to regular and hypoallergenic soaps. They are made from plant-based oils and other natural compounds.
Common ingredients of organic soaps include extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, aloe vera, bamboo extracts and colloidal oats. They are also free of synthetic dyes and fragrances.
Although organic soaps may not wash as white as regular, harsh soaps, they do not irritate the skin either.
In addition, organic soaps actually contain natural remedies that are used to treat eczema and other skin diseases in traditional medicine.
Even for those without skin diseases, exposure to sunlight is a tricky proposition. On one hand, sun exposure increases the production of vitamin D in the skin. On the other hand, it causes photodamage to the skin.
For eczema patients, exposure to sunlight is even trickier. Yet a healthy balance must be reached.
Sunlight can directly irritate the skin and increase itching. In addition, the accompanying heat can dry up the skin and slowly create the right environment for eczema flare-ups.
However, multiple studies have also shown that sunny days may also help eczema. These studies show that eczema patients who live in sunny regions tend to have fewer flare-ups than those who live in colder climates.
How can sun exposure help eczema? Through vitamin D.
The increased serum level of vitamin D caused by the right sun exposure boosts the immune system and promotes the release of a group of natural antimicrobial compounds known as cathelicidins.
Cathelicidins are found in very low concentrations in the skins of eczema sufferers. By raising the level of vitamin D, the ultraviolet light from the sun equips the skin to better fight off infections and break the cycle of inflammation that results from the interaction between pathogens and immune cells.
So, what is the right sun exposure for eczema patients? Getting out in the sun early in the morning or during the last hours of the afternoon is recommended.
Sunlight during noon and early afternoon burns the skin more than it helps. In addition, daily sunlight exposure should be kept under 30 minutes. Furthermore, moisturizers and sunscreens are recommended to avoid the dehydration of and photodamage to the skin.
It should be noted that the oral and topical antibiotics and steroids commonly prescribed for eczema patients can make the skin photosensitive.
Therefore, eczema patients taking these medications should be wary of prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Where sun exposure is not possible, studies show that narrow-band ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) light from phototherapy lamps can also help eczema patients.
There are creams specially formulated to help eczema patients. These can contain topical antibiotics and/or steroids or botanicals.
Common ingredients of eczema creams include hydrocortisone and related corticosteroids, urea, antibiotics, vegetable oils, ceramide, glycerin, antioxidants and colloidal oatmeal.
Urea is a natural moisturizing compound found in the skin. It is usually included in moisturizing cream to help retain moisture and prevent the skin from getting dry and forming cracks. There are 2 concentrations of urea in these creams: 5% and 10%. The 5% urea creams are meant for those with sensitive skin.
Hydrocortisone is the most popular steroid recommended for eczema patients. It has anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties. It also blocks the release of histamine.
Therefore, hydrocortisone creams can provide quick and temporary relief for itching and swollen skin.
New generations of topical steroids used in eczema treatment include clobetasone. Clobetasone is more potent than hydrocortisone.
However, steroid creams should only be used for 7 – 14 days and they are not to be applied on the face or genitals. This is because prolonged use of topical steroids can make the skin photosensitive and cause stretch marks to appear.
An alternative to steroid creams is topical calcineurin inhibitors such as Protopic. They are recommended for children with eczema and can be used on the face. However, they are not without their side effects too.
Unlike steroids, natural vegetable oils and colloidal oatmeal are gentler on the skin. These botanicals moisturize and soothe the skin and may even provide some antimicrobial protection.
Certain nutritional deficiencies are more likely to worsen eczema than others. The most important ones are zinc, vitamin A and vitamin D deficiencies.
Vitamin A and its analogs are especially important for skin health. They are also used in the treatment of acne.
Vitamin A can help kill of pathogens on the skin and also boost the immune system. Therefore, vitamin D deficiency can lead to the slow decline of skin health. One of the symptoms of this deficiency is dry, scaly skin.
The importance of vitamin D to the skin also involves its antimicrobial protection and its ability to boost the immune system.
Zinc deficiency can result from both vitamin A and vitamin D deficiencies. In fact, a genetic condition involving chronic zinc deficiency leads to an incurable skin condition known as acrodermatitis enteropathica.
Zinc has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. These are two medicinal properties that can help relieve the symptoms of eczema.
Besides zinc and these vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids are also essential supplements that are useful in the treatment of eczema. These essential fatty acids have potent anti-inflammatory effects.
Because cod liver oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamins A and D, it is one of the most important nutritional supplements for eczema.
Besides cod liver oil, there are other natural remedies that you can use to get rid of eczema at home.
These herbs can be applied topically on the skin or taken orally. Herbs are natural alternatives to the steroids and antibiotics commonly prescribed for eczema patients.
Some of these herbs are well studied. In most cases, their efficacies are comparable to conventional medications. In addition, most studies find them safer and better tolerated than steroids and antibiotics.
The herbs listed above help eczema in different ways. The major mechanisms of actions are:
Bleach is a rather strong chemical for whitening fabrics. It is mostly made up of oxidizers and will normally irritate and dry up the skin. Yet studies show that taking a bleach bath can produce amazing results in the treatment of eczema.
In one study, giving a group of children with eczema bleach baths twice a week improved their symptoms so much that the researchers concluded that the solution should be routinely used even before the end of the study.
However, it must be noted that bleach is still a strong chemical solution even though it can produce dramatic results.
Health experts recommend that bleach baths should be restricted to two times per week.
In addition, they recommend that only the part of the skin affected by eczema should be bathe in bleach solution. Furthermore, bleach should be properly diluted before it is used to wash the skin and then thoroughly washed off after the bath.
Bleach bath works for eczema because it represents a drastic means of getting rid of the microbes that cause skin infections and help keep eczema active.
Studies show that bleach can kill off regular microbes as well as drug-resistant bacteria. Therefore, it works best for eczema patients who do not respond well to treatment and whose eczema lesions are infected.
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