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  • Reviewed on 12/12
    By Dr. Boguniewicz

Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema): Lifestyle Management

An important step in managing your eczema symptoms is to reduce skin irritation.

  • Avoid scratching or rubbing the skin. This can make the itch worse. Apply moisturizer whenever the skin feels dry or itchy.

  • Wash all new clothes before wearing them. This removes formaldehyde and other potentially irritating chemicals which are used during production and packing. Add a second rinse cycle to ensure removal of soap, if you are concerned. Residual laundry detergent, particularly the perfume or dye, may be irritating when it remains in the clothing. Changing to a liquid or milder detergent may also be helpful.

  • Wear garments that allow air to pass freely to your skin. Open weave, loose-fitting, cotton-blend clothing may be most comfortable. Avoid wearing wool.

  • 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 sedating antihistamines may reduce itching to some degree through their tranquilizing and sedative effects.

  • Use sunscreen on a regular basis and always avoid getting sunburned. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Sunscreens made for the face are often less irritating than regular sunscreens.

  • Residual chlorine or bromine on the skin after swimming in a pool or hot tub may be irritating. Take a quick shower or bath immediately after swimming, washing with a mild cleanser from head to toe, and then apply an appropriate moisturizer.  


Soak and Seal

The soak and seal procedure is an effective way to retain moisture in dry, irritated skin. Learn more.  


Avoid Things that Make Itching and Rash Worse

There are many things that worsen the itching and rash of eczema (atopic dermatits). These are different for each person, and there are ways to avoid these irritants. Learn more.


Action Plan

An action plan will help you control your atopic dermatitis. It will help you know what to do if your skin is dry, itchy or has a rash. Learn more.


Recognizing Signs of Infection

Skin infections often are a problem for people with atopic dermatitis because the condition has damaged their skin barrier. Infections can become quite serious if they are not treated promptly, so it is important to recognize the signs:

  • Increased redness
  • Pus-filled bumps or oozing fluid
  • Honey-colored crusts or scabs
  • Cold sores or fever blisters

If you see any of these signs, contact a healthcare provider immediately. He or she can provide appropriate medication or other treatment.

When to Consult a Health Care Provider

Though the goal of managing atopic dermatitis is self-care, you should consult your health care provider if:

  • You spot signs of infection
  • The severity of the rash or itching changes markedly

Atopic dermatitis is categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. Patients usually can place themselves in one of these categories depending on how they feel. A change from one of these categories to another is reason to consult a health care provider. He or she can suggest changes in medications or in methods, such as "soak and seal," for bringing symptoms under control.


NEXT: Soak and Seal


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