What is Eczema?

Eimear Nee, the Allcare Pharmacy trainer, discusses Eczema and provides some handy tips on how to manage it.

Eczema is a skin condition that causes areas of skin to become itchy, dry, cracked, sore, inflamed, and red. It is sometimes called dermatitis or atopic eczema.


Who is eczema common in?

Eczema commonly occurs in young children. Most people with eczema develop the condition before they are five years of age. 50% - 60% of cases will resolve by the age of 11.


What are eczema symptoms?

Eczema tends to occur at skin folds e.g. front of elbows, backs of knees, around the neck, and eyes. The condition usually follows a pattern of flare-ups and periods where the skin is less irritated. The severity of symptoms amongst sufferers can vary from mild irritation to severely sore, bleeding skin, which can have a big impact on daily life.

What are the main causes of Eczema?

The cause of eczema is not totally understood. However, people with eczema tend to have a less oily barrier in the skin, which leads to dry skin.

There is also immune system involvement, where some chemicals e.g. histamine is released, causing inflammation. There is a genetic link to the development of eczema.


How can eczema be managed?

Avoid skin irritants/ flare-up triggers:

  • Some people have individual triggers for flare-ups which should be avoided where possible. Common triggers include skin irritants such as perfumes, shower gels, cigarette smoke, and stress

Manage flare-ups:

  • There are several creams available on prescription which can help to reduce the itch and discomfort associated with eczema. Hydrocortisone 1% cream is available ‘over the counter in a pharmacy, which can be used from the age of 10 - 12 years depending on the individual product.
  • Hydrocortisone can help to reduce the itch and inflammation associated with eczema symptoms. It should be used sparingly for no longer than 7 consecutive days and is not suitable for use on sensitive areas e.g. the face. Speak to your Allcare pharmacy team for further information.

Use emollients multiple times daily:

  • Even when symptoms are clear, continue to use emollients daily.
  • Ointments work better when the skin is very dry

Prepare for bedtime:

  • Heat can aggravate the skin, therefore wearing breathable cotton clothes and cotton bed linen will help to keep the skin cool
  • Try to keep the room cool, leave the window open before bed
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom
  • Apply moisturiser 30 minutes before bed

Avoid scratching:

  • Keep fingernails short to reduce skin damage from scratching. Repeated scratching damages the weak skin barrier, worsening the condition and increasing the risk of infection.

Watch what you are watching yourself with:

  • Avoid ordinary soap, creams, shampoos/shower gels/bubble baths – these can contain parabens and sulphates which irritate and dry the skin.
  • Use emollient wash products as soap substitutes g. aqueous cream can be used instead of regular cleaning products

Watch what you are watching your clothes with:

  • When washing clothes, make sure to use non-biological detergents

Choose cosmetics wisely:

  • Hypoallergenic cosmetics are preferred

If you think you or your child might have eczema, visit your GP for confirmation of the diagnosis or speak to your local Allcare pharmacists for further advice.