Do and don’ts for eczema?

Eczema is a common skin condition characterized by itchy, inflamed, cracked, and rough skin. While there is no cure for eczema, it can be managed through proper skin care and avoiding triggers. Here are some do’s and don’ts for living with eczema.


Moisturize Frequently

One of the keys to managing eczema is keeping the skin moisturized. This helps prevent dryness and cracking. Apply an over-the-counter moisturizing cream or ointment at least twice a day, or more often if the skin is very dry. After bathing or washing hands, apply moisturizer within 3 minutes while the skin is still damp. Choose a fragrance-free moisturizer formulated for sensitive skin.

Use Lukewarm Water

When bathing or showering, use lukewarm water rather than hot water. Hot water can strip the skin of its natural oils and cause irritation. Limit showers or baths to 5-10 minutes, and avoid scrubbing the skin harshly with soap and washcloths. Use gentle cleansers like Cetaphil or CeraVe rather than regular bar soap.

Wear Soft, Breathable Fabrics

Avoid rough, scratchy materials like wool against the skin. Instead, wear soft cotton fabrics that allow skin to breathe. Look for labels that say “hypoallergenic.” Avoid tight clothing that can cause chafing and irritation. Wear loose cotton gloves to bed to prevent scratching.

Use Humidifiers

Running a humidifier at home and at work can add moisture to dry indoor air, which can help prevent eczema flares. Aim to keep humidity around 30-50%. Clean humidifiers regularly to avoid bacterial growth.

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of fluids, like water and herbal tea, throughout the day. Dehydration can lead to dry skin. The general recommendation is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids per day. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages which can dehydrate the body.

Identify and Avoid Triggers

Certain triggers like stress, hot and cold temperatures, scented detergents, soaps and lotions, and coarse fabrics can all exacerbate eczema. Observe flare patterns to identify YOUR personal triggers, then try to avoid them. For example, if heat and sweat cause issues, keep cool with air conditioning, fans, cold drinks, and breathable clothing.


Don’t Scratch

Scratching leads to more itchiness and damaged skin. Cut nails short and smooth to reduce damage from scratching. Distract yourself with other activities and apply cold compresses to itchy areas.

Don’t Use Harsh Cleansers

Avoid abrasive soaps, detergents with strong chemicals, and scrubbing. These can strip away natural oils and irritate the skin. Avoid bar soaps – choose gentle, fragrance-free cleansers instead.

Don’t Take Long Hot Showers

Limit showers to 5-10 minutes and use lukewarm water instead of hot, which can worsen itchiness. Hot water washes away the skin’s protective oils. After bathing, apply moisturizer immediately while skin is still damp.

Don’t Wear Wet Clothes

When doing wet work or exercising and sweating, change out of damp clothes as soon as possible. Damp clothing can trigger eczema flares. Opt for moisture-wicking athletic wear when working out.

Don’t Use Fragrances

Steer clear of scented products like perfumes, colognes, scented lotions, detergents, and fabric softeners. These contain chemicals that can irritate eczema-prone skin. Stick to fragrance-free skin and laundry products.

Don’t Smoke

Avoid tobacco smoke, whether firsthand or secondhand. Chemicals in smoke can worsen skin dryness and cause eczema flares. If you smoke, this is another reason to quit. Ask smokers not to smoke around you.

Lifestyle Tips

In addition to your daily skin care routine, there are some lifestyle changes that can improve eczema management. Work on maintaining healthy skin from the inside out.

Manage Stress

Stress and anxiety are common eczema triggers. Engage in relaxing activities like yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness. Get regular exercise. Make time for hobbies you enjoy. Get enough sleep. Consider therapy or support groups. Reducing stress can help minimize flare-ups.

Moisturize Air

Use a humidifier to add moisture to dry indoor air, especially during colder months. This helps prevent itchy, tight skin. Aim to keep humidity around 30-50% and clean humidifiers often.

Watch What You Eat

Some foods are common eczema triggers, especially for children. Common culprits include dairy, eggs, nuts, wheat, and soy. Keep a food diary to identify any problem foods. Focus on a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.

See a Dermatologist

See a dermatologist or doctor who specializes in eczema for help creating a personalized treatment plan. They can prescribe medications like steroid creams, immunomodulators, antihistamines, and biologic injections for severe cases. Check in every 6-12 months.

Try Phototherapy

Some people with moderate to severe eczema benefit from controlled UV light exposure under a doctor’s supervision. This can help reduce inflammation, itchiness, redness, and bacteria on the skin. It may allow patients to use lower doses of medications.

Track Flare Patterns

Triggers are not always obvious. Keep a journal or use an app to track when you experience eczema flares. Note activities, foods, weather, locations, stress levels, and sleep to look for patterns. Avoiding triggers is key for prevention.

Treatment Options

In addition to good skin care practices, certain medications and treatment options may be recommended by your dermatologist to manage eczema symptoms. Some common treatments include:

Treatment How It Works
Steroid creams Reduce inflammation and itching when applied to affected areas 1-2 times per day
Immunomodulators Decrease immune system reactions and inflammation that trigger eczema
Antihistamines Block histamine, a chemical in the body that causes itchiness
Biologic injections Target specific parts of the immune system to reduce inflammation for severe eczema
Phototherapy Uses controlled UV light exposure to treat skin inflammation and bacteria

When to See a Doctor

Consult a doctor if:

  • Eczema does not improve with over-the-counter creams
  • Eczema interferes with sleep or daily activities
  • Signs of infection develop, like oozing blisters, yellow crust, increased pain
  • Flares cover a large part of the body or are widespread
  • You experience frequent eczema flares

A doctor can rule out other skin conditions, test for allergies, provide prescriptions, and help create a management plan. See a doctor immediately if eczema is accompanied by fever, illness, or skin redness and swelling.

Caring for Eczema in Children

Eczema in children and infants requires some special care considerations:

  • Use gentle cleansers and moisturizers formulated for babies
  • Keep nails short and smooth to prevent scratching
  • Have the child wear cotton gloves at night
  • Dress in loose, soft clothing
  • Control environment temperature and humidity
  • Limit playtime in grass, sand, dirt which can aggravate skin
  • Distract with activities when itchy
  • Avoid irritants and triggers as much as possible
  • Work with a pediatrician to manage symptoms

The key is keeping the skin consistently moisturized and avoiding scratching the affected areas. OTC hydrocortisone cream may help with itching. Ensure all caregivers and family members follow the treatment plan.

Home Remedies

In addition to medical treatments, there are several natural remedies that may help soothe eczema discomfort and improve skin health:

Coconut Oil

Contains fatty acids and nutrients for moisturizing irritated skin without clogging pores. Apply several times a day.


Avenanthramides in oatmeal have anti-irritant effects. Add to a lukewarm bath or make a paste to apply to skin.

Aloe Vera

The cooling gel provides antioxidants and sterols that may reduce inflammation. Use 100% pure aloe gel.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Contains acids that balance skin pH levels. Dilute with water and use on affected areas to reduce infections.

Tea Tree Oil

Has antibacterial properties to combat infections. Mix with a carrier oil and apply to minor cuts and abrasions.

When to See a Doctor

While home remedies may help, it’s important to see a dermatologist if:

  • Symptoms worsen or fail to improve
  • The eczema is widespread or covers a large area
  • Signs of infection develop like oozing or yellow crust
  • You experience frequent flares
  • Eczema interrupts sleep and daily life

A doctor can test for allergies, provide prescription medications, recommend phototherapy, and help identify triggers. For severe eczema, injections and oral medications may be prescribed to reduce immune system activity.

When to See a Doctor

Here are some signs that it’s time to make an appointment with a dermatologist:

  • Over-the-counter creams and home remedies don’t control eczema
  • Symptoms are severe and widespread over large areas of skin
  • Eczema causes frequent loss of sleep or interferes with daily activities
  • Skin becomes infected with oozing blisters or yellow crust
  • You experience 4 or more flares per year

A dermatologist can provide prescription medications, phototherapy, allergy testing, and guidance on identifying and avoiding triggers. Seeing a doctor right away is recommended if eczema is accompanied by fever, illness, or spreading skin redness.


While there is no cure for eczema, it can be successfully managed through proper skin care, avoiding triggers, and treatment. Moisturize frequently, limit baths, wear soft fabrics, identify personal triggers, and avoid scratching. See a doctor for guidance on medications, light therapy, and lifestyle changes. Consistent gentle care combined with targeted medical treatments can keep eczema under control.

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