Dermatitis (eczema) is a common skin condition causing red, dry and scaly patches. Dermatitis often flares up in the dry winter air and can be very itchy and distressing.
Atopic dermatitis is the most common type and has no obvious cause. It usually starts in the first few years of life, particularly on the face, elbow and knee creases, wrists and ankles. This condition usually improves with age. However, patches of dermatitis are also common in adults with dry skin, especially the elderly.
Some patients get 'contact' dermatitis from touching irritating substances, e.g. chemicals or detergents, or from an allergic reaction, e.g. from plants or jewellery.
Strategies for prevention
- Keep the skin moist. Avoid soap where possible - use a soap substitute instead e.g. sorbolene. Use a bath oil. Have less frequent, shorter baths and showers. Use a moisturiser, e.g. sorbolene and 10% glycerin, after bathing & during the day.
- Avoid triggers, e.g. wool, nylon, carpets, grass, sand and chlorine pools.
- Don't scratch!
- Avoid overheating. Do not overdress, turn down the heaters, have cooler baths.
How to treat dermatitis
Although there is no cure for dermatitis, good control can be achieved in most cases.
Steroid (cortisone) creams are the mainstay of treatment - they clear the rash and reduce the itch. Use your cream till the rash has gone and restart at the first sign of relapse.
Steroid creams are safe if used as directed by your doctor and are quite different to steroids used by athletes and body builders. With prolonged or incorrect use over large areas, they can cause thinning of the skin but serious side effects are rare. Strong creams for the body should not be used for delicate areas such as the face.
For more info, visit http://www.eczema.org.au/.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.