Eczema Uncovered

Eczema Uncovered

There’s nothing quite like the overwhelming desperation from irritating dry skin and a crazily unstoppable itch! If you struggle with eczema, you aren’t alone. One in 10 individuals will develop eczema in their lifetime. This often occurs and peaks in early childhood.

Itching skin and red rashes can indicate something deeper going on beneath the surface.


What is eczema?

Eczema can’t be defined as a single health condition. It’s recognised as a reaction pattern you find in various skin diseases. Eczema presents itself in different types and severity, so causes and treatments also vary.

Generally eczema starts as red, raised tiny blisters full of a clear fluid above red, elevated plaques. These can weep, ooze, and produce crusted thickened plaques of skin that can be incredibly itchy.

Each type of eczema comes with its own symptoms and triggers, but some of the most common signs include dry, scaly skin, redness, and itching (this could be intense).

Types of eczema

If you have eczema, it’s highly likely you have allergies such as hay fever or asthma, accompanied by itchy and red skin. Did you know that there are at least 11 skin conditions that produce eczema? The two most common types include:


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Atopic eczema causes your immune system to send inflammatory signals to your skin’s surface, which creates itching and rashes.

Your skin might look clear for a while, but underneath the inflammation hasn’t disappeared. It’ll show after another flare-up. This can be a chronic condition, so you may have a few flare-ups each year.


Dry skin, genes, an immune system problem and environmental triggers are all possible causes of atopic dermatitis.


Frequent moisturising can keep your skin hydrated. Corticosteroid creams and ointments could help reduce swelling and redness during a flare-up.


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Contact dermatitis causes red, irritated skin patches from substances you touch.


You may have an allergic immune system reaction to an irritant such as latex or metal, or a chemical could irritate your skin.


It’s best to avoid direct contact with bleach, detergents, jewellery, and paint. Makeup, skin care products, soaps and perfumes can also be irritants.

Protect your hands before handling identified allergens or irritants. Applying anti-itch lotions to your affected areas and taking anti-itch tablets can also help.

What can I do about my eczema?

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To reduce eczema outbreaks, you can:

  • use aqueous cream as a soap substitute. Soap dries out your skin, while soap substitutes moisturise your skin and reduce the risk of dryness and irritation.
  • gently dab your skin with a soft towel after bathing or washing your hands, instead of rubbing. Bathing and showering also dries out your skin, so take extra care when drying your affected itchy areas.
  • moisturise your skin daily with a rich, oil-based cream or ointment. Tip: Apply this immediately after bathing or showering to lock in the moisture and help form a protective barrier against the elements. Petroleum jelly is an excellent moisturiser for eczema-prone areas, and coconut oil also helps combat your dry or sensitive skin symptoms. Natural soaps and creams with emollients (moisturising substances) can help decrease skin inflammation. You can moisturise as often as you need, which may be two to three times daily or more.
  • use fragrance-free cleansers, makeup, and skincare product
  • wear gloves and protective clothing when handling chemical
  • wear cool, loose-fitting, soft-fibred (cotton) clothing
  • watch out for detergents like liquid laundry soap. Avoid anything that’s fragranced, dyed or includes fabric softeners, as these can trigger eczema. Always look for fragrance-free washing products, even if they’re natural or organic.

As hard as it is, don’t scratch your rash! This can irritate nerve endings in your skin, which intensify the itching and scratching and could lead to bleeding and an infection.

Can food set off my eczema?

It’s possible that something in your diet is causing your eczema. Certain foods could aggravate your symptoms. Flare-ups often occur after eating inflammatory foods, such as dairy, gluten (or wheat), red meats, refined carbohydrates and sugar.

Some common triggers for eczema flare-ups which you may also consider removing from your diet are:

  • citrus fruit
  • egg
  • soy
  • spices (particularly cloves, cinnamon and vanilla)
  • tomatoe
  • some nuts, e.g. peanut

It may help to pursue an anti-inflammatory diet instead, that includes:

  • fish (to increase your Omega-3 fatty acid intake)
  • healthy fats (like olive oil)
  • fruit
  • vegetable
  • whole grain


Who can help me with my eczema?

Your GP can help you, but may refer you to a dermatologist who can further diagnose and treat your eczema if there’s no improvement. Before you see a doctor, try keeping a record of probable triggers to help identify possible reasons for your eczema flare-ups, like:

  • your bath and shower routine
  • your diet
  • your outdoor and physical activitie
  • your skincare and cleaning product
  • any stressful environments or event

You could also investigate potential allergies such as pollen and animal dander. A patch test through an allergy specialist can help you pinpoint which irritating substances are triggers for your eczema.

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What medicine can I take?

You may need to try a few medicines before finding what works. Your doctor might prescribe:

  • antibiotics to treat skin infections
  • antihistamines to control the itchiness 
  • topical corticosteroid cream or ointment to reduce the inflammation
  • steroids, e.g. prednisone pills to regulate swelling
  • light therapy to heal your rashes

Applying a cool compress to the affected area before using corticosteroid cream could help soothe itchiness, plus the medicine can enter your skin more easily.

You may want to investigate herbal supplements like primrose oil or tea tree essential oil for your flare-ups. Taking probiotics could help offset possible gastrointestinal side effects from antibiotics.

Natural home remedies such as soaking in a comfortably cool bath with added oatmeal or Epsom salts can assist in conjunction with other treatments. Chat to your doctor about various options to help you get some much needed relief.


Living with eczema can be hard, and it tends to come and go over time. Treatment can help improve your symptoms but it’s important to stop your flare-ups from getting infected. Identifying and avoiding stressful situations can also be a game changer.

By informing yourself and knowing your triggers, you can significantly reduce your symptoms and discomfort without compromising on your quality of life, plus have healthier skin!

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