Great tips from the National Eczema Society on how to manage and reduce those itchy flare-ups -
Eczema can be unbearably itchy, especially when it flares up. The itch then triggers scratching. But in the long-term scratching easily becomes an unconscious habit, like anything that’s done often enough. Scratching can then be triggered by a variety of situations, circumstances and activities, without any initial itch.
The habit of picking, rubbing and scratching damages and thickens the skin. The skin also becomes unstable – prone to flare-ups – and vulnerable to infections. Left alone for long enough, damaged skin will heal naturally, as long as it is not infected. Scratching not only hinders natural healing, it prevents topical treatment for eczema from being effective, and it starts up itching by damaging the skin further.
It is possible to deal with “habit scratching”, and this is now recognised as very important in managing long-term atopic eczema.
- If the urge to scratch is too strong, pat the itchy area with the flat of your hand, pinch it with your fingertips or apply something cold (e.g. ice cubes or frozen peas, wrapped in a towel or cloth)
- Try keeping emollient creams in the fridge. Children often find warm emollients more soothing, however. Ointments may become too hard and difficult to apply if kept in the fridge
- You can help to keep skin cool by wearing loose cotton clothing, avoiding hot baths and overheated rooms
- Rather than shouting ‘Stop scratching’ at someone, it is much more effective to do something that distracts their attention from the urge to scratch