A Patient's Guide to Eczema
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Eczema Self Care:
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Other Eczema Self Help Options

Non-Prescription Medications:

During flares, over-the-counter combination preparations that incorporate moisturizing ingredients with a topical corticosteroid (such as clobetasone butyrate and hydrocortisone) are helpful for controlling inflammation and restoring the skin barrier.

Hydrocortisone is a mildly potent topical corticosteroid. At a concentration of 0.5%, it is available without a prescription in Canada. A 1% preparation is available in the US and Europe without a prescription. Hydrocortisone can be helpful for mild localized eczema. It is best to try the ointment base on dry areas.

Clobetasone butyrate is a moderately potent topical corticosteroid. It is available as a cream or ointment at a concentration of 0.05%. When applied to the skin, clobetasone butyrate reduces swelling, itching and redness by preventing the release of inflammatory chemicals that trigger these symptoms.

If the eczema is moist or oozing, it is advisable to seek medical advice. While waiting for medical consultation, moist areas can be compressed. Typically, a clean face cloth can be rinsed in tepid tap water for compressing. The cloth is then applied over the oozing moist patch of eczema for 15 minutes, which will have a soothing, drying effect on the skin. It should be repeated 2-3 times a day. The OTC topical steroid can be applied after compressing.

Anti-Itch Products:

Topical antihistamines, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine), are available for the relief of itch, but due to concerns about developing allergic reactions to these medicines, avoidance is recommended.

Products that can help reduce itching include:

  • Anti-itch preparations
    • Common products or ingredients that report anti-itch properties include calamine or aloe, but caution must be used before generalized skin application. Due to the heightened sensitivity of eczema prone skin, these substances can elicit allergic reactions.
  • Perfume free products
    • Perfume free varieties of cleansers, moisturizers, cosmetics, fabric softeners and detergents can minimize the potential for irritation and triggering flares.

Oral Supplements:

Currently, there is no conclusive evidence that proves taking oral supplements can help people with eczema. However, some patients have reported benefits from their use.

Evening Primrose Oil:

Oil extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose plant contains a high concentration of gamma-linolenic acid, which has a moderate anti-inflammatory effect. Some individuals show clear benefit from its use, although clinical trials have failed to show significant improvement.

Traditional Chinese Herbal Therapy:

Studies have demonstrated traditional Chinese herbal therapy to be helpful for improving atopic dermatitis. A sustained remission has been shown to occur from this therapy. However, treatment risks include hepatotoxicity (liver damage) and dilated cardiomyopathy (weakened or enlarged heart), as well as other more serious side effects.

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