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Because eczema is largely genetic, preventing it completely is not possible. You can, however, prevent symptoms and reduce flare-ups. Prevention does not require medication. Behavioral changes can have a significant impact and reduce the likelihood of an eczema flare-up.
According to the American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD), people with atopic dermatitis (eczema) may scratch their skin 500 to 1,000 times per day. All of this scratching can actually make symptoms worse. It can also invite infection.
Avoid scratching whenever possible. Alternative ways to reduce itchiness include:
By reducing itchiness, you can prevent inflammation and protect against breaks in the skin. This will in turn reduce the likelihood of infection and allow the skin to heal.
You should also trim your nails short. If you can’t help but scratch, shorter nails make it harder to break the skin.
Several irritants can increase the risk of an eczema flare-up. These may include things like:
Learn which irritants bring on eczema symptoms by keeping track of which products you used and the type of clothing you wore before a flare-up. Once you’ve pinpointed the culprits, try to avoid or at least minimize contact with these irritants. Wear loose-fitting clothes made from cotton or a cotton blend, use mild soaps and cleansers and fragrance-free detergent, and wear gloves in the winter to protect your hands from dryness.
The nerve fibers that cause your body to itch (and tempt you to scratch) also respond favorably to pressure. Instead of scratching, which increases the chances of broken skin and infection, try to rub areas that are itchy. This could provide relief without the risk of infection.
Stress can trigger an eczema flare-up, and in the world we live in, stress is common. Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, listening to relaxing music, progressive relaxation, yoga, and meditation. These can help to soothe stress and control or reduce anxiety. Joining a support group or just making time to have fun and socialize can also help reduce stress.
Dry skin can trigger an eczema flare-up and make the skin condition more uncomfortable. Ask your dermatologist to recommend a moisturizer that is ointment-based (such as one that contains petrolatum) or cream-based, These can help to soothe the skin and are safe for eczema patients.
Apply the moisturizer within three minutes after bathing, while skin is still damp. Use a moisturizer every day, even on days when you aren’t experiencing an eczema flare-up.
Plain Vaseline or over-the-counter emollients like Eucerin cream are generally very helpful. However, you should avoid creams and lotions that contain fragrance or dyes, as these can further irritate the skin.
Getting a good night’s sleep helps reduce stress, which can bring on an eczema flare-up. The average adult should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. This may require some rearranging of your schedule, but the health benefits of sleep are numerous.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed on: Jul 16, 2014: Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD
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