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What to know about eczema

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Eczema is a condition wherein patches of skin become inflamed, itchy, cracked, and rough. Some types can also cause blisters.

Different types and stages of eczema affect 31.6 million people in the United States, which is over 10% of the population.

Many people use the word eczema when referring to atopic dermatitis, which is the most common type. The term atopic refers to a collection of conditions that involve the immune system, including atopic dermatitis, asthma, and hay fever. The word dermatitis refers to inflammation of the skin.

Certain foods, such as nuts and dairy, can trigger symptoms. Environmental triggers include smoke, pollen, soaps, and fragrances. Eczema is not contagious.

Some people outgrow the condition, whereas others will continue to have it throughout adulthood.

This article will explain what eczema is and discuss its symptoms, treatments, causes, and types.

Symptoms

a woman applying cream to eczema on her arm
Applying moisturizer may prevent eczema flares and ease symptoms.

The symptoms of atopic dermatitis can vary depending on the age of the person who has it.

Atopic dermatitis is common in infants, with dry and scaly patches appearing on the skin. These patches are often intensely itchy.

Continuous rubbing and scratching can lead to skin infectionsLearn how to identify infected eczema here.

In most cases, however, eczema is mild. The most common symptoms of atopic dermatitis include:

  • dry, scaly skin
  • skin flushing
  • itching
  • open, crusted, or weeping sores

Some of the symptoms of eczema are different in people with darker skin. Learn more here.

People with severe eczema will need more intensive treatment to relieve their symptoms.

Most people with the condition develop it before the age of 5 years. However, an estimated 60% of children will no longer show symptoms by adolescence.

People with the condition will often experience periods of time when their symptoms worsen, followed by periods of time when their symptoms will improve or clear up.

The symptoms in children and adults may be different. The following sections will outline some of these differences in more detail.

Symptoms in infants

The following atopic dermatitis symptoms are common in infants under the age of 2:

  • rashes on the scalp and cheeks
  • rashes that bubble up before leaking fluid
  • rashes that can cause extreme itchiness, which may interfere with sleeping

Symptoms in children

The following atopic dermatitis symptoms are common in children age 2 and above:

  • rashes that appear behind the creases of elbows or knees
  • rashes that appear on the neck, wrists, ankles, and the crease between the buttocks and legs
  • bumpy rashes
  • rashes that can become lighter or darker
  • skin thickening, also known as lichenification, which can then develop into a permanent itch

Symptoms in adults

The following atopic dermatitis symptoms are common in adults:

  • rashes that are more scaly than those occurring in children
  • rashes that commonly appear in the creases of the elbows or knees or the nape of the neck
  • rashes that cover much of the body
  • very dry skin on the affected areas
  • rashes that are permanently itchy
  • skin infections

Adults who developed atopic dermatitis as a child but no longer experience the condition may still have dry or easily irritated skin, hand eczema, and eye problems.

The appearance of skin affected by atopic dermatitis will depend on how much a person scratches and whether or not the skin is infected. Scratching and rubbing can further irritate the skin, increase inflammation, and make the itching worse.https://85b581de73753af93f48aeaecf284b00.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Treatments

There is currently no cure for eczema. Treatment for the condition aims to heal the affected skin and prevent flares of symptoms.

Doctors will suggest a treatment plan based on an individual’s age, symptoms, and current state of health.

For some people, eczema goes away over time. For others, however, it is a lifelong condition.

The sections below will list some treatment options.

Home care

There are several things that people with eczema can do to support skin health and alleviate symptoms.

For example, they can try:

  • taking lukewarm baths
  • applying moisturizer within 3 minutes of bathing to “lock in” moisture
  • moisturizing every day
  • wearing cotton and soft fabrics
  • avoiding rough, scratchy fibers and tight fitting clothing
  • using a humidifier in dry or cold weather
  • using a mild soap or a non-soap cleanser when washing
  • taking extra precautions to prevent eczema flares in winter
  • air drying or gently patting the skin dry with a towel, rather than rubbing the skin dry after bathing or taking a shower
  • where possible, avoiding rapid changes of temperature and activities that cause sweating
  • learning and avoiding individual eczema triggers
  • keeping fingernails short to prevent scratching from breaking the skin

People can also try various natural remedies for eczema, including aloe vera, coconut oil, and apple cider vinegar.

Medications

Doctors can prescribe several medications to treat the symptoms of eczema, including:

  • Topical corticosteroid creams and ointments: These are anti-inflammatory medications and should relieve the main symptoms of eczema, such as inflammation and itchiness. People can apply them directly to the skin. A range of topical corticosteroid creams and ointments are available online. Some people may benefit from prescription-strength medications, however.
  • Systemic corticosteroids: If topical treatments are not effective, a doctor may prescribe systemic corticosteroids. These are available as injections or oral tablets. People should only use them for short periods of time. Also, it is important to note that the symptoms may worsen upon stopping these drugs if the person is not already taking another medication for the condition.
  • Antibiotics: Doctors prescribe antibiotics if eczema occurs alongside a bacterial skin infection.
  • Antiviral and antifungal medications: These can treat fungal and viral infections.
  • Antihistamines: These can reduce the risk of nighttime scratching, as they tend to cause drowsiness.
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors: This drug suppresses the activities of the immune system. It decreases inflammation and helps prevent flares.
  • Barrier repair moisturizers: These reduce water loss and work to repair the skin.
  • Phototherapy: This involves exposure to UVA or UVB waves. This method can treat moderate dermatitis. A doctor will monitor the skin closely throughout the treatment.

Even though the condition itself is not currently curable, each person should have a tailored treatment plan.

Also, even after an area of skin has healed, it is important to keep looking after it, as it may easily become irritated again.powered by Rubicon Project

Causes

The specific cause of eczema remains unknown, but many health professionals believe that it develops due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Children are more likely to develop eczema if a parent has it or another atopic condition. If both parents have an atopic condition, the risk is even higher.

Some environmental factors can bring out the symptoms of eczema. These factors include:

  • Irritants: These include soaps, detergents, shampoos, disinfectants, juices from fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables.
  • Allergens: Dust mites, pets, pollens, and mold can all lead to eczema. This is known as allergic eczema.
  • Microbes: These include bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, viruses, and certain fungi.
  • Hot and cold temperatures: Very hot and very cold weather, high and low humidity, and perspiration from exercise can bring out eczema.
  • Foods: Dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, soy products, and wheat can cause eczema flares.
  • Stress: This is not a direct cause of eczema, but it can make the symptoms worse.
  • Hormones: Females may experience increased eczema symptoms when their hormone levels are changing, such as during pregnancy and at certain points in the menstrual cycle.

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Types

There are several types of eczema. Besides atopic dermatitis, other types include:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis: This is a skin reaction that occurs following contact with a substance or allergen that the immune system recognizes as foreign.
  • Dyshidrotic eczema: This refers to irritation of the skin on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It is characterized by blisters.
  • Neurodermatitis: This leads to scaly patches of skin on the head, forearms, wrists, and lower legs. It occurs due to a localized itch, such as from an insect bite.
  • Discoid eczema: Also known as nummular eczema, this type presents as circular patches of irritated skin that can be crusted, scaly, and itchy.
  • Stasis dermatitis: This refers to skin irritation of the lower leg. It is usually related to circulatory problems.

Summary

Eczema is a common inflammatory skin condition. The most common type is called atopic dermatitis.

Eczema is most common in children, but the majority grow out of it by the time they reach adolescence.

Last medically reviewed on July 21, 2020

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FEEDBACK:Medically reviewed by Sara Perkins, MD — Written by James McIntosh — Updated on July 21, 2020

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How to stop eczema itching at night

Eczema symptoms often get worse at night and interrupt or delay sleep. Medications, wet wraps, medicated baths, and other methods can help people with eczema to get a good night’s rest.

Eczema, or dermatitis, is a skin condition that causes patches of itchiness, inflammation, swelling, and cracked skin. When eczema flares up at night, the discomfort can make it difficult to get to sleep.

This sleep disruption is common, affecting 33.0 to 87.1 percentTrusted Source of adults with eczema. The condition causes difficulty sleeping in 83 percent of children with eczema, and this can significantly affect the quality of life.

In this article, we look at why eczema symptoms flare up at night and how to prevent them.

Why does eczema flare up at night?

eczema itching at night
Eczema symptoms may worsen at night.

Researchers are not sure what causes eczema, but various genetic and environmental factors may be involved.

Eczema symptoms may feel worse at night for a few reasons:

  • Due to the body’s sleep and wake cycles, a person’s temperature decreases at night, which can make the skin feel itchy.
  • If a person has moisturized during the day, the effects may have worn off by night.
  • People are more likely to scratch in their sleep, which can make itchiness worse.

People tend to wake up a few times during the night without realizing it. They may be scratching because they are too sleepy to remember to hold back. This can make the itchiness worse, which can interrupt sleep further.https://85b581de73753af93f48aeaecf284b00.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

How to prevent eczema itching at night

One of the best ways to prevent nighttime eczema flare-ups is to avoid triggers before bed. Some triggers can include activities and materials.

The following tips may help prevent eczema itching at night:

  • Moisturize well before bed. Use an oil-based moisturizer or a medicated cream, such as a steroid cream, before bed. A doctor can provide stronger versions.
  • Bathe at night. Bathing regularly is important for keeping the skin hydrated and preventing infections. Always moisturize within 3 minutes of bathing to lock in hydration. Try medicated baths, which may include colloidal oatmeal, bleach, or vinegar.
  • Use wet wrap therapy. If the skin tends to dry out during the night, try wrapping a damp cloth around the affected area after moisturizing. Leaving the wrap on overnight can help keep the skin hydrated.
  • Avoid harsh fabrics. Do not use sheets or pajamas made from fabrics that can irritate the skin, such as wool or polyester. Clothing and linens made from 100 percent cotton are gentler on the skin.
  • Avoid allergens before bed. Many people with eczema also have allergies, and reactions can make eczema symptoms worse. It can help to stay away from common allergens, such as pet dander and pollen, at night.
  • Take an antihistamine. While antihistamines may not reduce itchingTrusted Source, they may make a person drowsy, helping them to sleep in spite of the itching.
  • Try melatonin. ResearchTrusted Source from 2016 suggests that the supplement melatonin can help children with eczema get to sleep more quickly.
  • Wear gloves to bed. Making it more difficult to scratch can help control eczema itching at night. Some people find relief by keeping their fingernails short or wearing gloves to bed.
  • Keep the bedroom cool. Sweating or just feeling hot can make the skin itchier.
  • Get into a good sleep pattern. Go to sleep at the same time each night and make time for a relaxing activity, such as reading or meditation, before bed.

People with eczema and others who have sensitive skin should avoid the following, especially before bed:

  • soaps, lotions, and cosmetics that contain fragrances or dyes
  • household cleaners
  • mold
  • dust mites
  • gasoline
  • nickel and other metals
  • cigarette smoke
  • sweat
  • high-stress situations

If eczema is stopping a person from sleeping, or if the condition is severe, a doctor may recommend immunosuppressant medications. These prevent the immune system from overreacting and triggering flare-ups.

Light therapy, or phototherapy, can also help with severe eczema.MEDICAL NEWS TODAY NEWSLETTERKnowledge is power. Get our free daily newsletter.

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Bedtime itching in infants and babies

eczema itching at night baby wipes
Using baby wipes on an infant may trigger a skin reaction.

Eczema can first appear during infancy, usually as a rash on the face and scalp. This can cause nighttime itchiness and discomfort.

Often, treatments for children and babies are the same as those for adults, but caregivers can take certain extra precautions to keep babies more comfortable, particularly at night.

To reduce the symptoms of eczema in babies:

  • know and avoid the triggers
  • follow a daily bathing and moisturizing routine
  • avoid or exercise caution when using antibacterial ointments, such as those that contain neomycin or bacitracin, as they can irritate the skin
  • avoid using baby wipes that contain isothiazolinones, which can trigger skin reactions
  • avoiding shampoos and other products that contain cocomidopropyl betaine

Summary

Eczema is a common, noncontagious skin condition that can cause itching, rashes, rough patches, and pain.

These symptoms frequently disappear with age. About 95 percentTrusted Source of children with eczema have no symptoms after 20 years.

When eczema causes itchiness, it can prevent or disrupt sleep, but bathing, moisturizing, and taking medication regularly can significantly reduce symptoms.

Last medically reviewed on October 29, 2018

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Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI — Written by Danielle Dresden on October 29, 2018https://85b581de73753af93f48aeaecf284b00.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

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Eczema elimination diet and foods to eat

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a condition that causes a person to develop patches of dry, itchy skin on their body. It often develops as a result of inflammation in the body, so eating foods that do not cause inflammation may help reduce symptoms.

While no cure exists, over-the-counter creams and medications that can help to reduce inflammation are available. Sometimes, a doctor may recommend avoiding foods known to make eczema worse.

Some foods may trigger the release of T cells that cause inflammation, as well as immunoglobulin-E or IgE, which is an antibody that the body produces in response to a threat. Foods that contribute to inflammation include nuts, milk, and wheat.

Foods to eat

close-up-of-cherries-that-may-help-with-an-eczema-diet
Cherries are high in inflammation-fighting flavonoids.

For people with eczema, eating certain foods can trigger the body to release immune system compounds that cause inflammation, which, in turn, contributes to an eczema flare-up. An anti-eczema diet is similar to an anti-inflammatory diet.

Examples of anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • Fish, a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids that can fight inflammation in the body. Examples of fish high in omega-3s include salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, sardines, and herring.
  • Foods high in probiotics, which are bacteria that promote good gut health. Examples include yogurt with live and active cultures, miso soup, and tempeh. Other fermented foods and drinks, such as kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut, also contain probiotics.
  • Foods high in inflammation-fighting flavonoids. Examples of these include colorful fruits and vegetables, such as apples, broccoli, cherries, spinach, and kale.

Eating more of these foods and cutting down on any trigger foods could help to reduce eczema flare-ups.

Elimination diet and foods to avoid

Food-sensitive eczema reactions will typically occur about 6 to 24 hoursTrusted Source after a person eats a particular food. Sometimes, these reactions may be delayed even longer.

To determine what foods may be causing the reaction, a doctor will often recommend an elimination diet. This diet involves avoiding some of the most common foods known to cause eczema.

Before eliminating any foods, a person will need to slowly add each food type into their diet and monitor their eczema for 4 to 6 weeks to determine if they are sensitive to any particular food.

If a person’s symptoms get worse after adding a particular food to the diet, they may wish to consider avoiding it in the future. If a person’s symptoms do not improve when eliminating a food, they probably do not need to remove it from their diet.

Some common foods that may trigger an eczema flare-up and could be removed from a diet include:

A doctor may also recommend allergy testing. Even if a person is not allergic to a particular food, they may have sensitivity to it and could experience skin symptoms after repeat exposure. Doctors call this reaction food responsive eczema.

People with dyshidrotic eczema, which typically affects the hands and feet, may experience benefits from eating foods that do not contain nickel. Nickel is found in trace amounts in the soil and can, therefore, be present in foods.

Foods that are high in nickel include:

  • beans
  • black tea
  • canned meats
  • chocolate
  • lentils
  • nuts
  • peas
  • seeds
  • shellfish
  • soybeans

Some people with eczema also have oral allergy syndrome or sensitivity to birch pollen. This means they may have reactions to other foods, including:

  • green apples
  • carrot
  • celery
  • hazelnuts
  • pears

People with eczema are more prone to oral allergy syndrome and should speak to their doctor if they have a pollen allergy or experience mild allergic reactions to the above foods.

For more science-backed resources on nutrition, visit our dedicated hub.https://85b581de73753af93f48aeaecf284b00.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlMEDICAL NEWS TODAY NEWSLETTERKnowledge is power. Get our free daily newsletter.

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Dietary supplements and eczema

sauerkraut-may-be-recommended-for-an-eczema-diet
Probiotics are naturally present in sauerkraut, which may reduce the symptoms of eczema.

Research has shownTrusted Source that taking probiotic supplements may reduce the symptoms of eczema. More studies are needed, however, to confirm the effectiveness and dosage required.

Probiotics are available in a variety of supplements, such as the selection available here. If a person is not sure which probiotics to buy, they may find the online reviews helpful and can also talk to their doctor.

Probiotics are also naturally present in many foods. Probiotic foods include:

  • yogurt
  • sauerkraut
  • kimchi
  • miso
  • tempeh
  • kombucha

Other supplements that have been studiedTrusted Source include fish oil and Chinese herbal preparations; neither of which made a significant difference in eczema symptoms.

Outlook

While a person’s diet is not always a trigger for eczema, some people may find that their symptoms do get better when they make dietary changes.

Making these changes and monitoring the results can help a person determine whether changing their diet can help them better manage their condition.

Last medically reviewed on January 2, 2020

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Medically reviewed by Natalie Olsen, R.D., L.D., ACSM EP-C — Written by Rachel Nall, MSN, CRNA on January 2, 2020https://85b581de73753af93f48aeaecf284b00.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

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Top 12 natural remedies for eczema

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Home remedies and natural treatments can soothe the dry, itching skin that comes with eczema.

People can use creams, natural products, and dietary and lifestyle changes to manage or prevent eczema flares, especially in the winter, when symptoms tend to be at their worst.

Natural substances, such as aloe vera gel and coconut oil, can moisturize dry, broken skin. They can also combat inflammation and harmful bacteria to reduce swelling and prevent infection.

Natural remedies cannot cure eczema, but they can help manage the symptoms and prevent flares. This article looks at the best natural remedies for eczema.

1. Aloe vera gel

Aloe vera gel in glass pot with cut up plant next to it on wooden table
A person can use aloe vera gel directly from the plant.

Aloe vera gel is derived from the leaves of the aloe plant. People have used aloe vera gel for centuries to treat a wide range of ailments. One common use is to soothe eczema.

systematic review from 2015 looked at the effects of aloe vera on human health. The researchers reported that the gel has the following types of properties:

  • antibacterial
  • antimicrobial
  • immune system-boosting
  • wound-healing

The antibacterial and antimicrobial effects can prevent skin infections, which are more likely to occur when a person has dry, cracked skin. Aloe’s wound-healing properties may soothe broken skin and promote healing.

How to use it

People can buy aloe vera gel in health stores or online, or they can purchase an aloe vera plant and use the gel directly from its leaves.

Choose aloe gel products with few ingredients — others can contain preservatives, alcohol, fragrances, and colors, all of which can irritate sensitive skin. Alcohol and other drying ingredients could make eczema worse.

Start with a small amount of gel to check for skin sensitivity. Sometimes aloe vera can cause burning or stinging. Generally, however, it is safe and effective for adults and children.

Learn more about using aloe vera gel to treat eczema here.https://85b581de73753af93f48aeaecf284b00.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

2. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a popular home remedy for many conditions, including skin disorders.

The National Eczema Association (NEA) report that apple cider vinegar may help with the condition. However, they recommend using caution, as the vinegar’s acids can damage soft tissue.

No research has confirmed that apple cider vinegar reduces eczema symptoms, but there are several reasons why it could help:

Balancing the skin’s acidity levels

Vinegar is highly acidic. The skin is naturally acidic, but people with eczema may have less acidic skin than others. This can weaken the skin’s defenses.

Applying diluted apple cider vinegar could help balance the skin’s acidity levels, but vinegar can cause burns if it is not diluted.

In contrast, many soaps, detergents, and cleansers are alkaline. They can disrupt the acidity of the skin, which can leave the skin vulnerable to damage. This may explain why washing with certain soaps can cause eczema flares.

Fighting bacteria

Studies have found that apple cider vinegar may fight bacteria, includingTrusted Source Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Using apple cider vinegar on the skin could help keep broken skin from becoming infected.

How to use it

Always dilute apple cider vinegar before applying it to the skin. Undiluted vinegar can cause chemical burns or other injuries.

People can use the vinegar in wet wraps or baths, and it is available in most supermarkets and health stores.

To use apple cider vinegar in a wet wrap:

  • Mix 1 cup of warm water and 1 tablespoon of the vinegar.
  • Apply the solution to cotton or gauze.
  • Cover the dressing in clean cotton fabric.
  • Leave it on the area for 3 hours.

To try an apple cider vinegar bath soak:

  • Add 2 cups of apple cider vinegar to a warm bath.
  • Soak for 15–20 minutes.
  • Rinse the body thoroughly.
  • Moisturize within several minutes of leaving the bath.

Learn more about using apple cider vinegar for eczema here.

3. Bleach in the bath

Although it may sound dangerous, research indicates that bleach in the bath can improve eczema symptoms due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.

Bleach can kill the bacteria on the surface of the skin, including S. aureus, which causes staph infections. This may restore the microbiome of the skin’s surface.

Conclusions of a 2015 review indicate that bleach baths could reduce the need for topical corticosteroid or antibiotic treatments. However, other research found no benefits of bleach baths, compared to regular baths.

How to use it

To make a bleach bath for eczema, use regular-strength (6 percent) plain bleach and try the following:

  • Add half a cup of bleach to a full bathtub of water or 1 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water.
  • Pour in the bleach while the bath is filling.
  • Soak for 5–10 minutes.
  • Rinse the body thoroughly with warm water.
  • Gently pat the skin dry.

Use lukewarm water to prevent the skin from drying out, and moisturize immediately after drying.

If a person experiences any discomfort, irritation, or redness, they should stop using bleach in the bath. People with asthma or breathing problems should refrain from taking bleach baths, due to the strong fumes.

Learn more about bleach baths for eczema here.

4. Colloidal oatmeal

Colloidal oatmeal, also known as Avena sativa, is made from oats that have been ground and boiled to extract their skin-healing properties.

2015 study reports that colloidal oatmeal lotion had antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, resulting in improved:

  • skin dryness
  • scaling
  • roughness
  • itch intensity

According to the results of a randomized controlled trial, a colloidal oatmeal moisturizer worked better than a control.

How to use it

Add powdered colloidal oatmeal to a warm bath and soak.

Choose a colloidal oatmeal product that has oats as the only ingredient and avoid those with fragrances or additives. People can buy pure colloidal oatmeal from health stores or online.

Lotions and creams that contain colloidal oatmeal are also available for purchase online.

Colloidal oatmeal is generally safe for all ages, but people who are allergic to oats should avoid it. Individuals who are allergic to gluten should use caution, as oats are often processed with wheat.

5. Baths

Tap dispensing water into bath
Bathing provides the skin with essential moisture.

Bathing is an important part of eczema treatment. When a person has a skin condition such as eczema, their skin needs extra moisture because the outer layer is not functioning as it should.

For some, washing often can dry out the skin and make eczema worse. This can occur when:

  • using water that is too hot or cold
  • using the wrong soap
  • not moisturizing afterward

Avoid bathing too frequently. Most babies and children need bathing once or twice a week.

NEA recommend that adults:

  • bathe or shower at least once a day
  • use lukewarm water
  • limit bathing to 10–15 minutes
  • avoid scrubbing the skin
  • use gentle cleansers instead of soaps
  • try different types of medicinal baths, such as those with baking soda, vinegar, or oatmeal

A long, hot shower can remove natural oils and moisture from the skin. Take shorter showers and keep the water at a warm, not hot, temperature.

After bathing, moisturize within 3 minutes of getting out. Gently pat the skin dry with a towel and apply an oil-based moisturizer before the skin has fully dried. This can help seal in water from the shower or bath before it evaporates.

After washing and drying the hands, apply moisturizer to help prevent eczema flares on them.

6. Coconut oil

Coconut oil contains healthful fatty acids that can add moisture to the skin, which can help people with dry skin and eczema.

Also, virgin coconut oil may protect the skin by helping combat inflammation and by improving the health of the skin barrier.

A randomized clinical trial looked at the effects of applying virgin coconut oil to the skin in children. The resultsTrusted Source show that using the oil for 8 weeks improved the symptoms of eczema better than mineral oil.

How to use it

Apply cold-pressed virgin coconut oil directly to the skin after bathing and up to several times a day. Use it before bed to keep the skin moisturized overnight.

Extra-virgin coconut oil is generally solid at room temperature, but the warmth of a person’s body turns it to liquid. The oil is sold in health stores and online.

People who are allergic to coconuts should not use coconut oil.

Learn more about using coconut oil for eczema here.

7. Honey

Honey is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent, and people have used it to heal wounds for centuries.

Conclusions of a review confirm that honey can help heal wounds and boost immune system function, which means that it can help the body fight off infections.

Another reviewTrusted Source states that honey is useful for treating a variety of skin ailments, including burns and wounds, and that it has antibacterial capability.

Applied directly to eczema, honey could help prevent infections while moisturizing the skin and speeding healing.

How to use it

Try dabbing a little honey onto the area. Manuka honey products designed for wound care and skin application are also available in many drug stores and online.

8. Tea tree oil

Manufacturers derive tea tree oil from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree. People often use this oil to help with skin problems, including eczema.

2013 reviewTrusted Source identifies anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and wound-healing properties in the oil. It may help relieve skin dryness and itching and help prevent infections.

How to use it

Always dilute essential oils before using them on the skin. Try mixing tea tree oil with a carrier oil, such as almond or olive oil, then applying the solution. Some products include tea tree oil in a diluted form.

People can find the oil in health stores or online.

Learn more about using tea tree oil for eczema here.

9. Dietary changes

Eczema is an inflammatory condition, which means that it causes inflamed, red, sore skin.

Certain foods can cause or reduce inflammation in the body, and making a few key dietary changes could help diminish eczema flares.

Examples of anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • fish
  • leafy greens
  • beans and lentils
  • colorful fruits
  • vegetables
  • turmeric and cinnamon

Common inflammatory foods include dairy, eggs, soy, and wheat. Try eliminating some of these from the diet and keep a food diary to help identify which foods may be problematic.

Learn more about diet tips for eczema here.MEDICAL NEWS TODAY NEWSLETTERKnowledge is power. Get our free daily newsletter.

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10. Gentle soaps and detergents

Laundry detergent can contain harsh chemicals that aggravate eczema.
Laundry detergent can contain harsh chemicals that aggravate eczema.

Many body washes and cleansers contain detergents, which help provide a soapy lather. Detergents and other lathering agents can dry out the skin, especially in people with eczema.

Bar soaps can also be harsh on the skin because of their alkalinity.

Try using a gentle, no-lather, fragrance-free cleanser. Avoid products with rough particles for scrubbing or exfoliating, as these can further irritate the skin.

Many people with eczema also find that switching to a more gentle, fragrance- or color-free laundry detergent can help improve symptoms.

Try skipping fabric softener, which lingers on clothes and often contains fragrances and chemicals that can cause skin irritation.

11. Avoid strong heat sources

Sitting next to a fireplace or near a furnace may feel good, but it can make eczema symptoms worse. The hot, dry air can dehydrate the skin and aggravate the itchiness of eczema.

Use a humidifier during the dry winter months and avoid getting too close to heaters and fireplaces.

12. Wrap up in cold weather

Cold, harsh winter winds can dry out skin and cause eczema flares.

Keep the skin covered when temperatures are low. Also, consider covering the face with a scarf if eczema occurs on the face.

Learn more about managing eczema flares in winter here.

Home remedies for eczema in babies and children

Many home remedies are suitable for babies and children, but always speak to a doctor before using them on kids of any age.

The following home remedies may help:

  • Avoid dressing a baby or child too warmly. Sweating can aggravate eczema or cause heat rash, which makes itching worse.
  • Use mittens to prevent infants from scratching their skin.
  • Apply a gentle moisturizer frequently to the affected areas, taking care not to get it in the eyes or nose.
  • Do not cover a baby’s face with a scarf. Infant car seat covers can help shield a baby from cold outside air. Check often to ensure that the baby is getting enough airflow.
  • Ask a doctor before trying apple cider vinegar or bleach in the bath of a baby or child.
  • Colloidal oatmeal baths are generally safe for children, but keep the bath water out of their eyes.
  • Avoid bathing them too frequently. Most babies and children only need bathing once or twice a week unless they are visibly soiled. Bathing less frequently may help prevent dry skin.
  • Use fragrance- and alcohol-free baby wipes. Many wipes contain irritating ingredients. Look for those without fragrance or alcohol and those that contain soothing ingredients, such as aloe vera. “Sensitive skin” wipes may be useful.
  • Use baby shampoos intended for children with eczema. Many eczema washes can sting the eyes, so look for eczema washes that are “tear-free” and carefully avoid the child’s eyes.

Outlook

There is no cure for eczema, but people can often manage their symptoms with home remedies, including natural gels and oils, medicated baths, and dietary changes.

If eczema is severe or does not respond to home treatments, it may be a good idea to see a doctor. Do so right away if a child or baby develops a new rash.

A doctor may prescribe steroid creams or other prescription medicines to treat the inflammation.

Last medically reviewed on January 21, 2019

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Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — Written by Jennifer Berry on January 21, 2019

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Can apple cider vinegar help with eczema?

Some people use apple cider vinegar as a remedy for various skin disorders, including eczema. But does it work, and is it safe?

Eczema can result in dry, cracked, and itchy patches of skin, and it may be painful or frustrating.

Finding natural, soothing treatments can be life-changing. Apple cider vinegar is one home remedy that many find effective.

The vinegar results from apple cider that has fermented. Some believe that it can heal eczema by rebalancing the skin’s acidity levels and reducing the risk of infection.

Eczema is common, affecting over 30 million Americans, for example. The term eczema usually refers to a condition in a group that includes atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and dyshidrotic eczema, among others.

In this article, we look at the scientific evidence that apple cider vinegar can help to heal eczema. We also describe how to use it and the risks.

Can apple cider vinegar help with eczema?

Apple cider vinegar can help balance the skin's acidity levels.
Apple cider vinegar can help balance the skin’s acidity levels.

No high-quality research suggests that the vinegar can improve symptoms of eczema, though there are a few reasons why it could help.

According to a testimony on the National Eczema Association’s Scratch Pad, adding 2 cups of apple cider vinegar to a warm bath helps to moisturize and soothe the skin.

The many reported benefits to the skin may come down to apple cider vinegar having the following effects:

Balancing the skin’s acidity levels

Acidic substances may improveTrusted Source symptoms of skin disorders, including eczema, by helping to restore the skin’s acidity level. The skin is naturally acidic, which helps it to protect against bacterial infection.

2016 studyTrusted Source in mice found that applying a vinegar-based cream helped to maintain the pH of the skin and inhibit the development of eczema lesions. Researchers have yet to investigate these effects in humans.

Meanwhile, authors of a study from 2017 concluded that highly alkaline, or basic, soaps and cleansers can irritate the skin and aggravate eczema.

Managing inflammation and infection

Further lines of research suggest that apple cider vinegar can reduce inflammation and infectionTrusted Source. Applying it to the skin, therefore, may reduce eczema-related swelling and help prevent broken skin from becoming infected.

Is it safe to use apple cider vinegar on eczema?

Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic, which can benefit the health in certain ways. However, in some cases and when overused, the vinegar can harm the body, for example by causing chemical burns.

Researchers and doctors have documented several examples of these injuries, including that of a child who sustained burns after his mother applied apple cider vinegar to the site of an infection and an adolescent who sustained burnsTrusted Source after attempting to use apple cider vinegar to remove facial moles.

Always talk to a doctor before using natural remedies on sites of eczema or other skin conditions. It is important to use small, diluted amounts of vinegar and to check the skin carefully for any reactions.

If a person experiences a burning sensation or any other side effects, they should stop using the vinegar and visit a doctor as soon as possible.

How to use apple cider vinegar

People use apple cider vinegar topically to treat eczema in many ways. For example, by:

  • Adding it to a warm bath. Mix 2 cups of apple cider vinegar with a warm bath, soak for 15 minutes, and rinse the body in cool water.
  • Using it in a wet body wrap. Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of warm water. Dip some clean cotton fabric, gauze, or paper towel in the mixture. Wrap this around the area affected by eczema.
  • Applying it as a hair mask. Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1/4 cup of sunflower oil. Apply it to the scalp right after a shower. The vinegar may act as a protective barrier for the skin and improve its moisture retention.

Others report that apple cider vinegar is an effective toner and moisturizer.

Is it safe for infants?

No guidelines or research suggests that apple cider vinegar is safe for infants or babies. The substance can cause chemical burns, and it may damage an infant’s sensitive skin.

Speak to a doctor before using apple cider vinegar to treat symptoms in a baby.MEDICAL NEWS TODAY NEWSLETTERKnowledge is power. Get our free daily newsletter.

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Other natural remedies for eczema

coconut oil for constipation
Coconut oil may reduce eczema symptoms.

The following may help:

  • Coconut oil. This anti-inflammatory moisturizer and may soothe skin and reduce symptoms.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Taking these supplements can boost the immune system and help prevent flare-ups of eczema symptoms.
  • Vitamin D. These supplements can also prevent flare-ups.
  • Probiotics. Regularly taking probiotics may combat or prevent eczema.

Summary

Eczema is a common issue, and apple cider vinegar may reduce symptoms by restoring the skin’s acidity levels. Also, some people report that adding the vinegar to baths helps to reduce dryness.

However, apple cider vinegar can also cause chemical burns if it is misapplied.

Always talk to a doctor before using natural remedies, including apple cider vinegar.

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