Ideas from the American Academy of Dermatology on other therapies that could help in soothing eczema – 

Eczema therapies that “guarantee” clear skin or promise an “amazing breakthrough” can be appealing. The longer you have been treating atopic dermatitis, the more alluring these ads may seem.

The truth is nothing cures atopic dermatitis. What researchers have found is that some therapies, when added to a treatment plan prescribed by a dermatologist, can improve results. Others have no effect. A few can cause serious, even life-threatening, side effects.

Behavior Modification + Topical Therapy: A Win-Win Approach

Adding a therapy called “behavior modification” to a treatment plan prescribed by a dermatologist may lead to clearer skin. Behavior modification is a technique used to help people change what they do so that they can get better results.

One behavior modification technique that has proven helpful for patients with atopic dermatitis is the combined approach. Used mostly in the United Kingdom, this approach teaches patients techniques that can help them avoid scratching. Patients also receive one-on-one training, usually from a nurse, on how to use moisturizer and their medications.

When tested in research studies, the combined approach produced dramatic results. Without the habitual scratching — people with atopic dermatitis may scratch their skin 500 to 1,000 times per day — and with proper use of topical therapy, even patients with severe long-term atopic dermatitis saw significantly clearer skin.

Bottom line: Avoiding scratching and using medication as directed allows the skin to heal. The combined approach is but one effective technique. To find tips that dermatologists tell their patients to help them reduce scratching, visit Preventing Flare-Ups.

Emotional Support Makes a Difference
A skin disease can diminish a person’s quality of life. Patients with atopic dermatitis often have low self-esteem. Many say their skin makes them feel isolated and embarrassed. A support group, camp, or conferences created for people living with a skin condition can help.

Support group. In June 2003, a hospital in Brazil began a support group for children younger than 12 years of age who had atopic dermatitis. The group met every 15 days. Initially, the children were insecure and kept to themselves. Once they recognized their similarities, they began to interact with each other. After 6 to 8 meetings, the doctors noticed several improvements. The children developed stronger bonds with the medical staff. They learned more about atopic dermatitis and how to better manage their symptoms. As their self-confidence grew, their symptoms lessened.

Probiotics: More Research Needed
A few studies indicate that taking a dietary supplement containing probiotics (live bacteria) — when used along with topical therapy — may help reduce the severity and extent of atopic dermatitis in children. While these findings are promising, more research is needed. Each study tested a different blend of probiotics. The appropriate blend and dose for treating atopic dermatitis have not been determined. The long-term effects are not known.

Most of this research has been conducted in Europe and Australia. Researchers do not know if supplements now available in the United States can be beneficial for atopic dermatitis.

Bottom line: Before taking a supplement containing probiotics or giving one to a child, speak with a dermatologist. Ask if a supplement containing probiotics might help and if it is advisable to take this supplement. Some dietary supplements can trigger an allergic reaction; others can interact with medication. If the dermatologist believes probiotics may help, be sure to get a product recommendation. Dietary supplements are not regulated as strictly as medications.

Teas: The Right Blend May Help
Studies suggest that tea — whether green, black, or oolong — can prevent some allergic reactions. To find out if tea could benefit patients with atopic dermatitis, researchers in Japan recruited patients with atopic dermatitis who had not respond to other treatment. The patients were instructed to continue following their treatment plan and to drink one liter of oolong tea every day. The liter was to be divided into thirds so that one-third of it was drunk after each of three meals. Of the 118 patients who completed the study, 63% showed marked to moderate improvement after one month. This effect was first noticed after one or two weeks.  

It should be noted that green, black, and oolong teas contain caffeine, which can increase restlessness, anxiety, and sleeplessness. Having atopic dermatitis produces these feelings in many patients, and caffeine may intensify these feelings.

Some people swear by a tea that does not contain caffeine. While chamomile is used worldwide to treat many conditions including atopic dermatitis, there is not enough reliable research in humans to support its use as a tea, essential oil, or in any other form.

One reason may be that too many cases of people developing an allergic reaction after eating or coming into contact with the chamomile plant have been reported. A few cases of anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, have occurred. Anaphylaxis makes blood pressure drop suddenly. Breathing becomes difficult. Some people loss consciousness and some die.

Bottom line: Limited research suggests that drinking oolong tea may help patients with atopic dermatitis when used along with treatment prescribed by a dermatologist. Chamomile has been shown to cause an allergic reaction, which in a few cases has been life threatening.

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