Treat Eczema Without Steroids

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Eczema in Adults and Children: Dealing With Itching

WebMD Feature
By Ellen Greenlaw
Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

The itching of eczema can sometimes feel unbearable. And yet, the more you scratch, the itchier your skin becomes.

To stop the cycle of eczema, here are six tips to soothe the itch.

  1. Moisturize skin affected by eczema often.

    In most cases, moisturizers are the first step in itch control. Applying moisturizer helps lock in your skin's own moisture. "Recent studies reveal that individuals with eczema have gaps between the cells in their skin that allow allergens to get in," says Andrea Cambio, MD, FAAD, medical director of Cambio Dermatology in southwest Florida.  "Moisturizer can fill these gaps and make it harder for allergens to get into the skin."

    The key is to moisturize often, especially right after bathing or washing. Look for a moisturizer that is unscented, because additives and fragrances can irritate the skin. For the most moisture protection, choose a thicker ointment, like petroleum jelly. Ointments contain more oil than water and are more effective than creams or lotions at locking in moisture.
    But the most important thing is to choose a moisturizer you like. "If you like how the moisturizer feels on your skin, you're more likely to use it often," says Lawrence Eichenfield, MD, chief of Pediatric Dermatology at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego.
    Users of Fire in the Hole Multi-Itch Spray often coat the affected area prior to moisturizer application.  The amino acid complex in Fire in the Hole helps heal the skin underneath the moisturizer barrier.

  2. Take an oatmeal or bleach bath.

    A short bath in lukewarm water with colloidal oatmeal can help ease itching. Purchase a pre-packaged oatmeal bath mix at your local drug store. Follow the directions on the label and soak about 15 to 20 minutes. After your bath, gently pat yourself dry with a soft towel. Then apply moisturizer right away, ideally while the skin is still damp.

    Diluted bleach baths can reduce your risk of getting a skin infection that may worsen your eczema symptoms. For a bleach bath, add 1/2 cup of bleach for a full tub of water, or 1/4 cup for a half tub of water and mix well. Soak for about 10 minutes, and then rinse your skin with clean lukewarm water. Because bleach can be caustic, be sure to talk to your doctor first.

  3. Use cold compresses to soothe itchy skin.

    Cold compresses applied to the skin can also soothe itch. You can place an ice pack inside a plastic bag or soft towel. Hold the ice next to the itchy skin for a few minutes or as needed to help relieve itch.

  4. Wear comfortable fabrics that feel good.

    Choose comfortable, loose-fitting fabrics that make your skin feel good. Cottons and cotton blends are usually the most comfortable. Avoid coarse materials, wool, and synthetic fabrics since these fabrics can irritate your skin.

  5. Keep your fingernails short to prevent skin damage.

    Short fingernails cause less damage to the skin if you do happen to scratch. If you find yourself scratching at night, try wearing cotton gloves to bed.

  6. Ask about eczema medications.

    If none of these steps helps with itch control, ask your doctor about medications. When used as directed, these medications work well to control eczema flare-ups. "Topical anti-inflammatory creams, such as 1% hydrocortisone, are useful during a flare," says Cambio. "But you might need a stronger prescription if over-the-counter treatments don't appear to control symptoms." 

    Oral antihistamines can also help relieve the itch of eczema. These are medications that you take by mouth. "Although experts disagree about how helpful antihistamines are for eczema, many patients find that they do help relieve itch," says Eichenfield. But be careful if you're using antihistamines during the day because some can make you sleepy.

    With so many ways to relieve itching, there's no need to suffer. "If you're really suffering with itch, or it's keeping you up at night, see your doctor. It's likely that your eczema is undertreated," says Eichenfield.

    Fire in the Hole Itch Spray is used by many of our patients to help relieve the symptoms associated with eczema and is preferred by some as it contains no steroids.  As with any skin issue you should consult with your doctor for a diagnoses and treatment.

Children With Eczema: How to Stop the Scratching

WebMD Feature
By Ellen Greenlaw
Reviewed By Hansa D. Bhargava, MD

When Stephanie Knox's 8-year-old daughter, Paige, starts scratching her eczema, sometimes she just can't stop. "It's really amazing how she can keep scratching and digging at her skin and still the itch doesn't go away," says Knox. "So we've had to come up with some creative ways to help soothe her itchiness and help her stop scratching."

Eczema can cause unbearable itchiness for people of all ages, but children often have an especially hard time with scratching. 

"The trouble with scratching is that it can actually make the condition worse," says Lawrence Eichenfield, MD, chief of Pediatric Dermatology at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego. "And, it can cause cuts in the skin that can become infected. So it's important for parents to learn ways to help their child stop scratching."

8 Ways to Help a Child With Eczema Stop Scratching

  1. Use Moisturizers Liberally

    Keep your child's skin properly moisturized. This can help keep eczema flare-ups and itching at bay. Thick ointments, such as petroleum jelly, contain more oil and are the most effective at locking in moisture. But not all children like the feel of thicker ointments. "I suggest parents let their older child try several moisturizers and choose which kind to use," says Eichenfield. "Because the best moisturizer is the one that your child will use." For the best itch relief, use moisturizers several times a day, especially after bathing or washing.

  2. Use Wet Wraps to Sooth Itchy Skin

    Knox says that using wet wraps is one of the most useful ways she's found to stop Paige's itching. The best time to apply wet wraps is right before bedtime. First, have your child soak in a lukewarm bath for about 5 to 10 minutes. After the bath, gently pat the skin dry with a towel and apply moisturizer or medication as directed. Next, moisten clean gauze bandages with water and wrap the affected skin. Then cover the wet bandages with a dry bandage or towel to lock in the moisture, and leave overnight. You can apply wet wraps on any part of your child's body that is especially itchy. "Paige won't let me wrap large areas, so we concentrate on smaller areas, like her ankles or elbows," says Knox. "She really likes the itch relief it gives her."

  3. Keep Fingernails Clipped to Minimize Scratching

    Short fingernails cause less damage to the skin if your child does scratch. If scratching at night is a problem, have your child wear cotton gloves to bed.

  4. Use Cold Compresses to Relieve Eczema Itch

    Try using a damp, cold washcloth, or cover an ice pack in a soft towel. Hold the compress to your child's skin for a few minutes or as needed to help relieve itch. You can repeat as necessary throughout the day.

  5. Keep Itchy Skin Covered

    Young children may be less prone to scratch their skin when it's covered up. "For some reason, young children often start to scratch as soon as their clothes are removed," says Eichenfield. To keep your child most comfortable, choose loose-fitting, comfortable clothing. Cotton and cotton blends are generally preferred. Wool and some synthetic fabrics can cause skin irritation and lead to more scratching.

  6. Try a Distraction to Forget About Itchy Skin

    For many children with eczema, their itch seems worst at bedtime. Finding a distraction from the itchiness can help them relax and go to sleep. "I found that massaging Paige's face at bedtime helps her relax and forget about scratching," says Knox. She applies a bit of moisturizer to her index fingers and massages all over Paige's face. "There are many nights when she falls asleep during the massage," says Knox. Gently rubbing your child's back or legs can help too.

  7. Use Eczema Medications

    Recommended medications for eczema can help relieve itch and control the condition. Treatments such as topical steroids are especially useful if your child has eczema that doesn't clear up with other measures. "Some parents are afraid to use these medications," says Eichenfield. "But when used properly, they are very safe and highly effective."

    Many parents who avoid using steroid treatments on their children have found Fire in the Hole Multi-Itch Spray is tolerated well by children and it effective for many types of eczema based itch symptoms.

  8. Be Willing to Try Different Anti-Itch Strategies

    Experiment with different ways of stopping scratching and learn a few methods that work for your child. "What works one day to help stop scratching may not work the next," says Knox. "So it's a good idea to have a couple different tricks up your sleeve."

    Fire in the Hole is well tolerated by children because it's cooling spray.  It's easy to apply to squirmy, impatient children and works well in combination with parents who use wet wraps at night to help soothe the itching.  Just spray a layer of Fire in the Hole Multi Itch Spray over the affected area prior to wrapping it up for the night.  Also, parents who use lotions to help soothe itching in children can apply Fire in the Hole to irritated area prior to applying the lotion to help increase the likelihood of success as it is absorbed quickly and continues to provide a soothing remedy under a layer of moisturizers.  

    For parents who want to avoid exposing their children to corticosteroids Fire in the Hole is an natural treatment that uses amino acids instead of steroids to help restore and soothe itching skin.  Fire in the Hole also avoids the use of parabens; a common preservative that some researchers link to harming the endocrine system, creating hormonal disruptions in women and causing cancer.
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