While living at a high altitude can often result in dry, irritated skin, there are other times when a more significant issue may be at play.
Have you have noticed an itchy, red or scaly rash on you or your child’s arms, legs, hands or face? Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is an inflammatory skin condition. It is often said that atopic dermatitis is “the itch that rashes.” Eczema develops due to a defective skin barrier. Eczematous skin is dry because it lacks both oil and water. It is not contagious or caused by any type of allergy, but can be associated with the development of food and environmental allergies.
Eczema most commonly shows up by preschool age, but older children and adults can also develop the condition. About 60 percent of patients will experience eczema symptoms by age 1, and another 30 percent will experience symptoms by age 5. Eczema is often inherited and infants with parents who have allergies or asthma are at highest risk for development.
Symptoms can be painful and cause crusting, scaling or blisters and/or changes in skin tone. The itch associated with eczema can be severe and affect quality of life and interrupt sleep. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic problem and you will always have dry, sensitive, easily irritated skin. Sun, wind, low humidity, cold temperature, heredity, age, excessive washing without use of moisturizer, and use of harsh drying soaps, can cause dry skin conditions and exacerbate eczema symptoms. It is important to recognize this and to practice good skin care and prevention measures daily to minimize symptoms.
Skin Care Basics.
· Take at least one bath or shower per day using warm (not hot) water for at least 10 minutes. Except for the genital and axillary areas, washcloths should not be used due to their potential abrasiveness.
· Use only a gentle cleansing bar or a liquid cleansing wash. During severe flares, you may choose to use cleaners just in areas where they are needed.
· Gently pat away excessive water and apply moisturizer or the special skin medication prescribed for you onto your damp skin. This will seal in the water and make the skin less dry and itchy. Vaseline is a good occlusive preparation to seal in the water.
· Apply a good moisturizer such as Aquaphor Ointment, Eucerin Cream, Vanicream, Lubriderm Cream or Lotion or a CeraVe product throughout the day, whenever the skin feels dry or itchy.
Reduce Skin Irritation.
· Wash all new clothes before wearing to minimize formaldehyde and other chemicals.
· Residual laundry detergent in clothing may be irritating. While changing to a milder detergent may help, more often, adding a second rinse cycle to ensure removal of soap is better.
· Wear garments that allow air to pass freely to your skin. Open weave, loose-fitting, cotton blend clothing may be most suitable.
· Work and sleep in comfortable surroundings with a fairly constant temperature and humidity level.
· Keep fingernails very short and smooth to help prevent damage due to scratching.
· Appropriate use of antihistamines may reduce itching to some degree through their tranquilizing and sedation effects.
· Use sunscreen on a regular basis and try not to get sunburned.
· Residual chlorine or bromine on the skin after swimming in a pool may be irritating. Immediately after swimming, take a shower or bath, washing with a mild soap from head to toe and then apply an appropriate moisturizer.
· Care must be taken to avoid substances that are proven (documented) to flare your disease. It is important not to deny you or your child things unnecessarily.
· Proper testing and challenges must be done in a controlled environment under physician supervision to determine which allergens flare your dermatitis.
· Anxiety, anger and frustration are commonly experienced by patients with atopic dermatitis and can provoke itching.
· It is important to learn and understand the chronicity of this disease, the triggering factors and the management measures which can help control it.
· Have family members learn about your disease so they can be supportive.
· Seek counseling if your environment is non-supportive.
Despite your best efforts, there are times when more intense and special care is needed to bring eczema under control. If you are have tried the above recommendations and are still unable to find control, seek care from an allergist. Allergists are specially trained to identify and treat skin conditions like eczema. Your specialist has more options to help you manage the disease, including topical and injectable medications.
CALL TO ACTION
- Despite your best efforts, there are times when more intense and special care is needed to bring eczema under control. If you are have tried the above recommendations and are still unable to find control, seek care from an allergist. Allergists are specially trained to identify and treat skin conditions like eczema. Your specialist has more options to help you manage the disease, including topical and injectable medications.