ECZEMA is the name for a group of skin conditions that result in red, itchy and inflamed skin.
It is very common: 1 in 3 Australians will suffer from it during their lifetime. It is most likely to occur in children, often appearing between 2–6 months of age. It is also more common in people with a family history of eczema, asthma or hayfever, and often flares up during winter.
Luckily, most children grow out of it by six years of age, but for 10% of the population it stays with them into adulthood. So why is eczema so common and how can we best manage it?
Australia’s high prevalence rate may be due to our intense hygiene practices, such as regular hot baths and the use of soap, which can alter the skin’s integrity and make it more reactive to irritants. Eczema can be triggered by internal factors such as additives, colourings and preservatives; and external irritants such as overheating, wool fabrics, and chemicals like pool chlorine or fragrances.
Management involves improving the skin barrier. Imagine the skin is like a brick wall. Now imagine the mortar in between the bricks slowly wearing away. This may be due to genetic factors, use of soaps, or over washing and rubbing of the skin. As the mortar wears away, gaps form allowing irritants to get in. When this occurs an inflammatory reaction results causing red, itchy, flaky skin that can be quite uncomfortable.
To reduce flare-ups our aim is to ensure the bricks and mortar are in good condition and able to repel any external irritants. To reduce the breakdown of mortar we need to use a cleanser that doesn’t dry out the skin or trigger a reaction. To improve the integrity of the skin we need something that adds moisture, fills in any gaps in the mortar and also seals the surface to stop the skin from drying out. These need to be used every day, not just when the eczema is bad.
There are many products available for eczema which do some or all of these things. It’s best to chat with one of our pharmacists who can recommend the right product(s) for you or your child. Defence is the best attack, so please call in; we are happy to be your allied forces in the battle against eczema!